Medicines in Development for Older Americans

Medicines in Development for Older Americans

07.03.14 | By Preet Bilinski

As overall life expectancy continues to grow, so does the number of older Americans, the majority of whom have at least one chronic disease. Chronic diseases not only impact our loved ones living with them, but our families as well and cost the health care system billions of dollars. Prospective medicines currently in the pipeline hold promise to improve health outcomes and provide cost savings.

PhRMA’s latest Medicines in Development report highlights the 435 new medicines currently in development that are poised to target 15 common chronic conditions affecting older Americans. These medicines are in either clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will not only help the Medicare population, but the overall health care system as well. The 15 chronic illnesses targeted by these innovative new medicines range from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes to chronic kidney disease and ischemic heart disease. These new developments have built on previous progress in chronic diseases and have the potential to improve the lives of millions. 

Josephine C. Martin, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at PhRMA, shares “for those of us with older parents, this is an issue that hits extremely close to home. As people grow older, we see the risk of chronic disease rise while the ability of coping with illness declines. A chronic disease is often not the only concern of an older American, and treatment can be made difficult by a combination of different health issues. These health concerns affect them and those who love and care for them. New medicines are making living with chronic diseases increasingly easier, while giving many of us back our peace of mind.”

Of these 430+ new medications, 110 of them focus on diabetes, which affects 10.9 million Americans ages 65 and older. A next-generation oral treatment for Type 2 diabetes is among the innovative therapies and has the potential to lower blood glucose levels with only one treatment a week, instead of current daily treatment. Another 67 of these medicines could improve treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease, which is currently projected to affect 15 million people by 2050, if no new medicines are found to prevent, delay or stop the progression of the disease. There is a possible first-in-class treatment with the ability to inhibit an enzyme believed to be involved with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The remaining medicines in the pipeline include 62 for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, 61 for heart disease and 40 for COPD.  The more than 430 medicines in this report provide hope to older Americans who live with these debilitating chronic diseases and are seeking to live longer, more independent and healthier lives.

The treatment of chronic diseases accounts for 75 percent of money spent on health care in the United States, totaling more than $262 billion in 2009 alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of health care costs for older Americans are for the treatment of chronic disease. This drastically drives up the cost of providing health care for a patients aged 65 or older, leading it to be three to five times more than the cost for someone under 65.

Chronic diseases pose their greatest risks as people age, with heart disease and cancer taking the lead. However, our ability to prevent, manage and treat chronic diseases has progressed dramatically in recent years, due in large part to the discovery and availability of new innovative medicines– and the robust discovery pipeline of new medicines indicates continued progress for seniors and our health care system.

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