Chronic conditions impose a substantial health and economic burden that affects millions of patients, families and communities across the United States each day. While these conditions come with different origins, symptoms and treatments, they each can have a negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being, quality of life and productivity. Currently, it is estimated that six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic condition and four in 10 adults have two or more. All combined, treating those with chronic conditions makes up 90% of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in annual health care expenditures. In response to the projected burden chronic conditions will continue to impose on the health care system, biopharmaceutical researchers have made tremendous efforts over the past 30 years to develop novel treatments that target these conditions.
Today, PhRMA released a new report detailing nearly 800 medicines targeting common chronic conditions — some of which are leading causes of death in the United States.
Chronic conditions are defined broadly as physical or mental conditions lasting one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living. Differing from acute diseases, which usually develop suddenly and can resolve in days or weeks with short-term care, chronic conditions often require extended and, in some cases, life-long treatment and management. As such, chronic conditions are a significant driver of health care spending and can have a detrimental impact on a patient’s quality of life and well-being.
Fortunately, hope is on the horizon as biopharmaceutical researchers are uncovering more about the origin and risk factors associated with chronic conditions and are researching new treatments. The 799 potential medicines currently in development, all of which are in clinical trials or awaiting review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), include:
- 322 for cancer, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, pediatric cancer and chronic forms of leukemia and lymphoma. In the U.S., cancer is the second leading cause of death and one in three people will have cancer in their lifetime.
- 102 for cardiovascular diseases, including congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, hypertension and stroke. Heart disease and stroke together cause more than 875,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
- 83 for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s affects more than 6.5 million Americans and, along with other dementias, is projected to cost the American economy an estimated $321 billion in 2022.
- 71 for type I and type II diabetes, which affects 37.3 million people in the U.S., including 28.7 million diagnosed and an estimated 8.5 million undiagnosed.
- 70 for arthritis, including osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. In the U.S., nearly one out of four adults have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis.
- 67 for chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis. Asthma affects nearly 8% of the adult U.S. population, while more than 16.4 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COPD.
- 65 for chronic gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect more than 1.6 million Americans, while between 25 to 45 million people in the U.S. are affected by irritable bowel syndrome.
- 32 for obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, which affects approximately two in five adults in the U.S.
- 26 for chronic kidney disease, which affects about 37 million U.S. adults; most of whom are undiagnosed.
Social determinants of health — meaning the conditions in which we live, learn, work and play—can have a significant impact on health disparities among certain disadvantaged racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. These inequities are seen in particular among those with chronic conditions and, for a range of reasons, manifest through varying prevalence of disease, severity of disease, access to treatment and health outcomes. Often these differences can be driven by limitations in healthy behaviors that can help prevent chronic conditions and environmental factors that influence the development of certain chronic conditions. For example, certain chronic conditions are linked to environmental risk factors such as poor nutrition, air pollution and exposure to other toxins.
Recognizing the link between social determinants of health and chronic conditions is key to understanding and addressing health disparities among people of differing races, ethnicities, income levels and geographic locations. As companies across the biopharmaceutical ecosystem continue to develop new medicines for the treatment of chronic conditions, it is essential to take meaningful action to help ensure underserved and historically marginalized communities are included in every step of the process. This is why the biopharmaceutical industry has been working with patients, communities, regulatory authorities, health care practitioners, academics and policymakers to enhance diversity in clinical trials, so that clinical trial populations testing medicines better reflect the patients that will use these new therapies and medicines should they be approved by the FDA.
Furthermore, adopting more sustainable practices can aid in promoting a healthier planet and population, while also advancing health equity initiatives. That’s why PhRMA has joined with the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) as a member of the Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector, a public-private partnership of leaders from across the health care system committed to addressing environmental impacts.
The medicines in development today represent the continued commitment of the biopharmaceutical industry to advance new treatment options for a wide range of chronic conditions and the diverse patient populations impacted by them. Looking ahead, these significant advancements in the treatment of chronic conditions are a reminder that we must preserve a policy and regulatory environment that allows this innovation to continue and supports patient access to needed medicines.