More Than 400 Innovative Medicines in Development For Top Chronic Diseases Affecting Older Americans

John J. Castellani
John J. Castellani

Two Reports Show Progress in Treatment Options for Chronic Disease

America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 465 new medicines that target the 10 leading chronic conditions affecting seniors, according to a new report and overview released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

With the population of Americans over 65 on the rise and life expectancy climbing, chronic diseases remain a principal 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 robust discovery pipeline of new medicines portends continued progress for seniors and our health care system.

“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,” said PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani. “But we can’t rest on our laurels. The more than 400 medicines in the pipeline for diseases prevalent among older Americans have tremendous potential to improve and extend the lives of seniors, and reduce costly emergency room visits, hospitalizations and surgical procedures.”

These medicines– all in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – are diverse in scope. They include:

  • 142 for diabetes, which affects 10.9 million Americans age 65 and older;
  • 92 for rheumatoid arthritis 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.

While these projects represent potential new treatment options for older Americans, they also reflect the continuum of knowledge and incremental gains inherent in the medicine discovery process. The gains that have been made over the past 20 years in the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a devastating autoimmune disease that causes progressive joint deterioration and pain, show the impact treatment advances over time can play in improving the lives of millions of patients. A PhRMA-sponsored white paper authored by Boston Healthcare Associates, Inc., Recognizing the Value of Innovation in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritisexplores the various ways in which additional clinical value — including improved outcomes and quality of life — has been realized over time for RA patients as our understanding of the underlying disease expands.

According to the Boston Healthcare report, this progress in RA treatment is through a complex process of ongoing introductions of new therapeutic options and continual research on how to best use existing treatments (such as use in combination with other therapies, use earlier in the treatment line, or use with difference disease indications). Often the full understanding of the therapeutic benefits of medicines is uncovered as research continues well after FDA approval.  According to Boston Healthcare’s Thomas Goss, PharmD, the lead author of the paper, “Two decades ago physicians worked to relieve patients’ symptoms while today the therapeutic objective is to slow disease progression and aim for remission. These gradual gains have been made through a continuous accumulation of knowledge through research and clinical experience.”

Similarly, many of the medicines in development for older Americans build on our growing knowledge and scientific progress to attack diseases in different ways. Among the potential medicines listed in the report are:

  • A treatment that aims to prevent or reverse progression of Alzheimer’s disease by using a human monoclonal antibody specifically designed to draw beta amyloid protein away from the brain through the blood system.
  • A medication that combines two long-acting drugs, allowing for once-daily dosing in COPD.
  • A potential first-in-class medicine to treat type 2 diabetes that increases insulin secretion without causing insulin to significantly lower blood sugar.
  • A medicine that recruits a patients’ own neural stem cells to repair or protect against damage to the central nervous system from stress hormones, which can lead to depression.

“The science behind these potential new medicines is mind-boggling, but the excitement and promise of new innovation is only part of the story,” said Castellani. “As a nation, we need to ensure that older Americans have broad access to the medicines they need to prevent and fight disease, and we must work with all stakeholders to help ensure that patients use medicines as prescribed by their doctors.”

The Medicines in Development for Older Americans report as well as an overview and other supplementary materials are available on PhRMA’s website at

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 over $500 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $49.5 billion in 2011 alone. For more information, visit