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It's 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.

Leukemia



Then  

If 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."

Now

You 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 the future."

HIV/AIDs



Then  

If 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.

Now

Thanks 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.

Alzheimer's disease



Then

If 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. 

Now

There 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 nationwide.

High Cholesterol



Then   

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.

Now

Millions 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.

Schizophrenia



Then

Between 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.

Now

Thanks 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.

Ulcers



Then

Thirty-five 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 sufferers.

Now

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 - bacteria.

Organ transplants



Then

In 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. 

Now

Thanks 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



Then

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.

Now

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 childhood.

Polio



Then

In 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. 

Now

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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