US biopharmaceutical research companies are currently developing 277 products for the treatment of skin diseases, according to a new industry report.

More than 100 million Americans - or one-third of the population - suffer from at least one skin disease, and these range from acne to psoriasis and from melanoma to infections, says the report, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Skin diseases also create a substantial financial burden - according to a study by the Lewin Group, the total annual cost of skin diseases was put at $39.3 billion in 2005, it adds.

Among the new treatments currently in R&D are 74 for skin cancers, including 63 for the treatment of melanoma, which affects more than 68,000 people in the US every year and is the nation's most common form of cancer.

60 new products are also in development for skin and soft tissue infections - which account for nearly 14 million US outpatient visits each year - and 41 are being developed to treat psoriasis, which affects about 7.5 million Americans and is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country.

Other products in development include for 14 for dermatitis (eczema) - 90% of sufferers from the condition get it before the age of five and, worldwide, up to 20% of children have dermatitis - and nine for rosacea, which affects more than 14 million people in the US, says the report.

The industry group points out that, at any given time, one in three people in the US suffers from some form of  skin disease, and that they affect people of all ages, racial and ethic populations and economic status.

"Advances in our understanding of the skin and the diverse disorders that affect it have allowed America's pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to conduct the cutting-edge research needed to reduce the toll on the wide range of people afflicted with skin disorders," added PhRMA’s chief executive, John Castellani.