Pipeline of Hope: Advances in Debilitating Diseases

Over the past few decades, medical advances have helped to tackle some of the most serious medical issues facing the global population. Together, members of the pharmaceutical industry have worked closely to understand and begin to address illnesses and health complications such as AIDS, cancer and heart disease.

New drug development has been critical in addressing these diseases, in many cases halting their progress, reducing or eliminating side effects, improving the health of patients, and ultimately, dramatically improving patients’ quality of life. Medical advances have increased survival rates and given more patients hope after diagnosis.

How so, you ask? Here are some examples:

  • Childhood cancer survival rates have increased from 58% in 1970 to 83% today.
  • HIV/AIDS mortality rates have declined 85% since 1995.
  • Heart disease mortality rates declined 30% between 2001 and 2011.
  • Cancer mortality rates have declined 22% since 1991.

(These stats and more: http://www.phrma.org/innovation)

How Are These Medical Advances Achieved?

Medical research is a continuous process. There is no end. Researchers are constantly looking to identify new and better ways to treat diseases and improve patients’ health and comfort.

And their research isn’t just limited to treatment. Prevention is critical. Intense resources are devoted to understanding the root causes of diseases, viruses, chronic conditions and emergent health complications. This understanding allows us to make the medical recommendations that help individuals identify and treat many health problems in their early stages. In some cases new advancements allow us to avoid preventable health issues altogether.

Medical research takes time, and requires the continuous feedback of doctors, researchers and patients working together to understand what works – and what needs to be improved. This process extends from initial research and medication development to testing, changes, and submission for FDA approval. Very few medications in development ever get that FDA approval. Even for those that do, research continues to make sure new medications are as effective as possible, and that patients receive the maximum benefit by taking them.

We Need This Medical Research

The medical advances made by pharmaceutical industries have played a tremendous part in the increased survival rates of many serious illnesses.

One such example? Leukemia.

The overall five-year relative survival rate for leukemia has more than quadrupled since 1960. From 1960 to 1963, the five-year relative survival rate among whites (only data available) with leukemia was 14 percent. From 1975 to 1977, the five-year relative survival rate for the total population with leukemia was 34.2 percent, and from 2004 to 2010, the overall relative survival rate was 60.3 percent. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

In fact, the five-year survival rates for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, is now “91.8% for children and adolescents younger than 15 years, and 93% for children younger than 5 years.”

Meanwhile, HIV-positive individuals have seen their outlooks tremendously improve thanks to decades of pharmaceutical research. In the 1980s, an HIV-positive diagnosis would almost certainly lead to AIDS, of which there was no effective treatment to prolong life.

Now, HIV/AIDS testing is widespread. Treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART) stop the virus from progressing. HIV/AIDS can now be controlled through proper medical care.

“Today, a person who is diagnosed with HIV, treated before the disease is far advanced, and who stays on treatment can live a nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.” aids.gov

Medical treatment has also been developed to treat individuals who are diagnosed with AIDS, prolonging life and preventing death in many cases.

The list of medicines in progress is long. Right now, biopharmaceutical companies in the United States are developing 190 different medicines for heart disease and stroke. Can you believe it?

From Alzheimer’s to arthritis to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and more, debilitating diseases affect hundreds of thousands of Americans. But there’s hope: Right now, tremendous time, energy and resources are helping doctors and researchers do everything they can to find solutions. New medicines are available every year. We look forward to seeing what is achieved in 2016.