Health

Biotechnology helping over 250 million people live healthier, longer lives

Biotechnology, which uses or mimics the body’s own weapons to fight disease, is already helping some 250 million people to live longer, healthier lives. Biotechnology, which uses or mimics the body’s own weapons to fight disease, is already helping some 250 million people to live longer, healthier lives. There are 96 biotechnology medicines already approved and available by a doctor’s prescription. And the 371 biotechnology medicines in development may mean better treatments or cures in the future. Some 145 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and the National Institutes of Health are involved in cutting-edge research that may bring better medicines to you and your family.

The medicines already approved by the Food and Drug Administration include new treatments for heart attacks, strokes, multiple sclerosis, leukemia, hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, breast canter, diabetes, congestive heart failure, lymphoma, kidney cancer, cystic fibrosis and other diseases. The medicines in the pipeline target AIDS/HIV, cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, asthma, Crohn’s disease, lupus, and other diseases. Several of these diseases, including heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, asthma and stroke disproportionately affect African Americans.

The medicines in development make use of cutting-edge technologies to fight disease. For example, a medicine in the pipeline for lung cancer is an “epidermal growth factor inhibitor,” which targets and blocks signaling pathways that are implicated in the growth and survival of cancer cells. Another type of biotechnology medicine, the monoclonal antibody, is a laboratory-made version of the naturally occurring protein that binds to and neutralizes foreign invaders.

Medicines based on this technology are being tested for asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, various types of cancer, and other diseases. Therapeutic vaccines, designed to jump-start the immune system to fight disease, are in development for AIDS, diabetes, and several types of cancer. Antisesne drugs are medicines that interfere with the communications process that tells a cell to produce an unwanted protein. Medicines based on this technology are potential treatments for AIDS, several types of cancer, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, and psoriases. Gene therapies, which augment normal gene functions or replace or inactivate disease-causing genes, are being tested for hemophilia, several cancers, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, and other diseases.

These are only a few examples of new ways pharmaceutical scientists are attacking –and gaining on—disease. The 371 biotechnology medicines in development promise to push the frontiers of science and bring more and better treatments to patients.

For more information about biotechnology medicines in development, go to www.phrma.rg.

Lucas is Associate Vice President of the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRma)

October 14, 2002
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