Press Release

Infectious diseases key cause of U.S. deaths until 1920s

PhRMA December 3, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 4, 2013) – America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 394 new medicines for infectious diseases, including viral infections, bacterial infections, fungal infections and parasitic infections, according to a new report released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Infectious Diseases Infographic

Infectious diseases [

see related infographics

] were the leading cause of death in the United States until the 1920s. Today, vaccines and antimicrobials have proven to effectively treat and prevent many diseases and conditions, but infectious diseases and the emerging resistance of pathogens that cause disease still pose a very serious threat to patients. Fortunately, new knowledge and technologies, the ongoing commitment of  America’s biopharmaceutical research companies and partners in the innovation ecosystem, and continued regulatory flexibility  can help fight the continuing—and ever-changing—threat from infectious diseases.

HIV/AIDS is perhaps the best example of the incredible progress combatting infectious diseases in recent decades. The discovery and development of new treatments have turned HIV infection from a death sentence into a chronic disease for those who have access to medicines. In the U.S. alone, death rates have fallen more than 80 percent since 1995 as a result of the development and introduction of multiple drugs used in innovative combinations, known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

“The incremental nature of medical progress means that important advances against disease often come through accumulated knowledge and research building over time, enabling biopharmaceutical scientists to make important discoveries that help transform a deadly disease into a manageable chronic condition,” said PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani.

The 394 medicines and vaccines in development for infectious diseases – all in human clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – include 226 for viral infections, 124 for bacterial infections, 24 for fungal infections and 15 for parasitic infections. Examples include:

  • A medicine for the most common and difficult-to-treat form of hepatitis C that inhibits the enzyme essential for viral replication.
  • An anti-malarial drug that has shown activity against Plasmodium falciparum malaria that is resistant to current treatments.
  • A potential new antibiotic to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
  • A novel treatment that works by blocking the ability of the smallpox virus to spread to other cells, thus preventing it from causing disease.

Infectious Diseases InfographicsCritical challenges remain in the battle against infectious diseases, particularly as bacteria and viruses develop resistance to current medicines and as the threat of bioterrorism grows. Antibacterials are one of the most important tools we have to combat life-threatening bacterial diseases. However, antibacterial resistance is becoming an increasingly common problem, resulting in over 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year among Americans and costing $55 billion in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This issue has been a concern for years and is considered one of the world’s most critical public health threats


“A sustainable pipeline of safe and effective antibacterials is critical to successfully treat serious and life-threatening infections," said Castellani. “Protection of the public health demands that we use the best available science and existing broad regulatory flexibility to restore the antibacterial pipeline and bring new medicines to patients who urgently need them.”

Read and download the report here.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested approximately $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $48.5 billion in 2012 alone.

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