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More Than 270 Medicines in Testing for Heart Disease and Stroke

A new report released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) finds that biopharmaceutical researchers are testing 277 medicines for two of the three leading causes of death of Americans -- heart disease and stroke. The medicines are currently in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

'Heart disease and stroke are still leading causes of death in the United States,' said Billy Tauzin, PhRMA president and CEO. 'These 277 medicines now in development show that biopharmaceutical researchers are keeping up the momentum of drug discovery that has helped cut deaths from these diseases by more than half since the 1950s. In addition, results from a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that death rates and rates of heart failure in hospitalized heart attack patients were cut nearly in half since 1996, probably due to better treatments like new cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood thinners, and angioplasty.'

The report notes that according to the National Center for Health Statistics, heart disease has topped the list of killer diseases every year but one since 1900. (The exception was 1918, when an influenza epidemic killed more than 450,000 Americans.) Stroke is the third leading cause of death. According to the American Heart Association, every 36 seconds, an American dies of cardiovascular disease, and nearly 80 million Americans have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. The cost of these diseases to American society is more than $430 billion a year.

Due in large part to new drug treatments, death rates from heart disease and stroke are falling, states the new report. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), if death rates were the same as those of 30 years ago, 815,000 more Americans would die of heart disease annually and 250,000 more would die of strokes. Much of the progress is due to the development of effective medicines to control both blood pressure and cholesterol, according to officials at the NHLBI. In addition, treatment of heart attacks has vastly improved. Twenty-five years ago, the treatment for heart attacks was simply bed rest. Today, doctors have medicines that can stop a heart attack in mid-stream as well as other high-tech treatments.

According to the report, the medicines in development include 30 for heart failure, which kills more than 50,000 Americans a year; 31 for high blood pressure, a leading risk factor for both heart disease and stroke; 19 for heart attacks, which strike more than 800,000 Americans a year; and 19 for stroke, which afflicts about 700,000 Americans each year. Many of the potential medicines use cutting-edge technologies and new scientific approaches. For example:

Human stem cells that may restore cardiac function by forming new heart muscle.
A new anticoagulant that regulates clot formation to prevent stroke in atrial fibrillation.
A vaccine that may be able to promote 'good' cholesterol by preventing the transfer of 'good' cholesterol to 'bad' cholesterol.


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