Poor Health is not an Inevitable Consequence of Aging

Poor Health is not an Inevitable Consequence of Aging

03.20.13 | By Preet Bilinski

Chronic diseases can have a profound impact on the health and quality of life of older Americans, not to mention the financial burden that is often associated with long-term illness. Although the risk of disease and disability undoubtedly can increase with advancing years, poor health is not an inevitable consequence of aging.

America's biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 465 new medicines that target the ten leading chronic conditions affecting seniors, according to a new report. These medicines include:

  • 142 for diabetes, which affects 10.9 million Americans age 65 and older;
  • 92 for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis, which affect 1.3 million Americans and 12.4 million people over age 65, respectively;
  • 82 for Alzheimer's disease, which could afflict nearly 8 million people in the U.S. by 2030 unless a treatment or preventative measure is found;
  • 48 for heart failure (affecting 5.8 million Americans) and ischemic heart disease; and
  • 40 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which impacts more than 13 million adults, with the highest prevalence rate in those over age 65.

All too often, because there are so many chronic conditions that seem to afflict seniors, there is the mistaken perception that diabetes, arthritis and the like, are just "part of growing old" - and nothing can be done about them. The truth is most of these diseases and conditions are treatable. In the last decade more than 300 new medicines have been approved by the FDA. These medicines are helping our nation's seniors live longer, healthier lives. They are transforming many cancers into treatable conditions and reducing the impact of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The treatment of patients with RA has made substantial progress as our understanding of the disease grows. 20 years ago physicians worked to relieve patients' symptoms while today the objective is to slow disease progression and aim for remission. A new report Recognizing the Value of Innovation in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, shows the impact treatment advances over time can play in improving the lives of millions of patients.

With the population of Americans over 65 on the rise and life expectancy climbing, chronic diseases remain a primary threat to the health and productivity of older Americans, as well as to rising health care costs. Innovative medicines have led to major advances against many chronic diseases - and the more than 400 medicines in the pipeline targeting a variety of chronic diseases provide new hope to older Americans seeking to live longer, more independent and healthier lives.

Learn more about how we're working to keep seniors healthy in our new Medicines in Development report on Older Americans.

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