easy to forget, but not very long ago the treatments we might today
take for granted hadn't yet been developed. Perhaps there weren't any
medicines at all for the disease, or those that did exist weren't very
effective or had serious side effects. The contrast between treatments
of yesteryear and today highlights how far we have come, as well as the
importance of continued innovation.
Read below to find out
what's changed in treating: Leukemia, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's disease,
high cholesterol, schizophrenia, ulcers, organ transplants, juvenile
rheumatoid arthritis, and polio.
you had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in 1999,
chances were that you would not be alive today. Just three out of ten
patients survived for even five years. In the meantime, you had two
daunting treatment options: a high-risk bone marrow transplant or daily
injections of interferon, the side effects of which have been compared
to "having a bad case of the flu every day of your life."
can take a daily pill that has a good chance of driving your cancer
into remission - normalizing your blood count with few, if any, side
effects. The new medicine targets CML on a molecular level, so it
affects only the enzyme responsible for the disease. The tremendous
effectiveness and precision of the approach is heralded as the "wave of
you were diagnosed with AIDS in 1990, you might expect to live for only
26 months. During that time, you would be likely to contract a number
of opportunistic infections that would make your remaining days
unpleasant and painful. The only treatment available had to be taken
every four hours - around the clock - and had serious side effects.
to the approval in 1995 of protease inhibitors - and further
advancements in new medicines and combination therapies in the decade
since - the AIDS death rate has fallen by 70 percent. If diagnosed
today, a range of treatment options (including different combinations
of drugs) might be able to keep you symptom-free for years to come.
you or a loved one started exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
12 years ago, there were no medicines for you to take. All you could do
was hope - that your decline into dementia would be slow, that your
memory and independence would last as long as possible, that someone
would come up with an effective treatment.
are three different classes of medication available to help treat the
symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and even slow its progression. If you
were diagnosed today, you could take an active role in treating your
illness, retaining mental functions and independence for longer than
ever. More innovations are needed, but the rapid progress of the past
two decades has made a real difference in the lives of families
Although high cholesterol was recognized as a key risk factor for
cardiovascular disease in the 1970s, there were no good ways to reduce
it. The best drug available was a grainy powder called cholestyramine.
Patients mixed it with juice, but it tasted like sand - one patient
said it was like drinking Miami Beach. Taking it was so unpleasant that
it was only prescribed for the most severe cases.
of people now control their cholesterol, and reduce their risk of heart
disease, by swallowing a small pill just once a day. A new class of
medicines, statins, was introduced in 1987 and offers a safe and
effective way to lower cholesterol. One NIH official, Dr. Claude
Lenfant, even said that if all patients took statins according to
guidelines, heart disease would no longer be the No. 1 killer.
the 1950s and the 1980s, the antipsychotic medications available to
treat this devastating mental illness were a double-edged sword. On the
one hand, they helped control symptoms like hallucinations and paranoid
thoughts. But they also had unpleasant side effects, like muscle
stiffness, tremors, and abnormal movements, that grew worse over time.
to new medicines introduced in the 1990s, people living with
schizophrenia can now manage their condition more effectively than
ever, and with fewer side effects. These medicines - dubbed "atypical
antipsychotics" to distinguish them from earlier, "typical" drugs -
also help people whose schizophrenia had not previously responded to
treatment, making it possible for them to leave institutionalized care,
return to work, and lead normal lives.
years ago, treating an ulcer meant painful surgery that brought with it
the risk of life-threatening infection and more ulcers in the future.
Along with surgery, doctors often recommended weeks of bed rest, a mild
fatty diet including boiled milk, and increased tobacco use, in an
effort to stop the suspected culprits: a stressful lifestyle and spicy
food. But none of these remedies made much difference to ulcer
In the late 1970s, new medicines were
developed to heal the lining in the stomach or duodenum, making it
possible for the first time to treat ulcers effectively without
surgery. With the discovery that the bacterium H. pylori causes the
vast majority of ulcers in 1982, doctors are now able to treat ulcers
both quickly and permanently by targeting the real root of the problem
the 1950s and early 1960s, patients needing an organ transplant were in
a tragic bind. Transplants were surgically possible, but the body's
immune response rapidly rejected organs donated by unrelated
individuals. People either died or led greatly diminished lives.
to anti-rejection medicines that were developed in the 1960s and 1980s,
tens of thousands of Americans have received transplants of a wide
variety of organs and are able to prolong their lives, regain their
health, and maintain their independence.
Juvinile Rheumatoid Arthritis
In previous generations, a child growing up with this debilitating
autoimmune disease, which causes severe joint inflammation, had no
choice but to take large doses of steroids to control the swelling or
dozens of aspirins each day to reduce the pain. Too often, neither did
very much, resulting in a childhood lost to hospitals, wheelchairs,
body casts, and pain.
A child growing up with
rheumatoid arthritis today - as well as many adults living with the
disease - can now benefit from new biotech proteins and antibodies that
help control the body's inflammatory response. Along with other more
effective treatments, including new types of pain relievers, these new
therapies can rapidly and dramatically reduce symptoms, helping today's
generation of patients enjoy a fully active, healthy, and normal
the early 1950s, summers were filled with fear. Swimming pools, summer
camps, and playgrounds lay empty as children were kept at home to keep
them safe from a crippling and sometimes deadly disease: polio.
Everyone knew someone with polio - there were 60,000 cases diagnosed in
one summer alone - but no one knew how to prevent it. The most unlucky
ones were completely paralyzed, spending the rest of their lives inside
an iron lung.
Polio is fast becoming a distant
memory - something many of us know only from history books or stories
we hear from our grandparents. Within five years of the 1954
introduction of the now-historic Salk vaccine, polio lost its grip on
the nation; the last case in the U.S. was recorded in 1979. It's a
testament to the tremendous achievements of pharmaceutical innovation,
and the profound impact it has had on people's lives.
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