America's pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies are developing 234 medicines for the special health care needs of children, according to a new report released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
"Our researchers, who lead the world in pharmaceutical innovation, are working on new treatments to fight a wide range of major diseases and medical disorders that afflict children all over America," said PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin. "Our companies' targets include childhood cancer, the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 5 and 24, and an array of genetic disorders, including cystic fibrosis, a debilitating and fatal condition that affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States."
The new "Medicines in Development for Children" report was unveiled today at Trinity Moline by PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson. He stressed that biopharmaceutical research companies are key contributors to today's steady progress against childhood diseases.
"According to the National Center for Health Statistics, infant mortality in America has sunk to record lows," Johnson said. "A child born today can expect to live 30 years longer than a child born 100 years ago. Twenty-five medicines are being developed for childhood cancer and 36 drugs are being clinically tested to treat genetic disorders. Our scientists are also developing 33 medications for such infectious diseases as HIV/AIDS, ear infections, pneumonia and hepatitis."
Johnson was joined at today's news conference by Super Bowl champion Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, a former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, and three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi, a former Pro Bowl linebacker with the New England Patriots. In February 2005, Bruschi suffered a stroke and was found to have a congenital defect that leaves a potentially life-threatening hole in the heart. Paralyzed and facing surgery, he announced his retirement only to return to the National Football League (NFL) eight months later, winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. Bettis suffers from asthma and in 1997 he endured a major asthma attack during a nationally televised NFL
game. During his career, Bettis was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and NFL offensive Rookie of the Year.
In touting today's pharmaceutical and medical progress for children, Johnson pointed to statistics from the American Cancer Society. Today, because of major treatment advances, 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer will survive five years or longer, compared to a five-year survival rate of less than 50 percent 30 years ago. Progress has also been made against childhood pneumonia. According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, pneumonia deaths among children dropped 97 percent between 1939 and 1996, thanks in part to antibiotics that prevent deaths from not only pneumonia, but also scarlet fever and other diseases that used to claim the lives of children.
New vaccines have also been vitally important in the fight against childhood illnesses. They protect children against polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox, diphtheria, whooping cough, hepatitis B and meningitis.
The new "Medicines in Development for Children" survey also lists many other new pediatric treatments that are being tested today, including:
- 23 for neurologic disorders, including epilepsy, which afflicts more than 300,000 Americans under the age of 14.
- 15 for respiratory disorders, including asthma, which afflicts about 6.7 million American children.
- 13 for cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, high cholesterol and congenital heart disease.
According to Maribeth Bopes, nurse manager at Trinity BirthPlace, another speaker at today's news conference, "If a baby was born prematurely 20 years ago with any type of respiratory difficulty, the child was transferred out of town. Now thanks to advances in technology and medications, babies who used to go elsewhere are now able to stay here with their families in the Quad-Cities, which is so important for bonding purposes."
The medicines listed in the report include treatments being developed by biopharmaceutical research companies in Illinois -- Abbott Laboratories in Abbott Park, Hospira in Lake Forest, Neopharm in Waukegan and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Astellas Pharma and Lundbeck, all located in Deerfield. In addition to creating new medicines, biopharmaceutical companies are also testing many existing treatments to determine safe and effective dosage levels for children. The Tufts University Center for the Study of Drug Development says more than 120 approved medications now contain new safety, efficacy, dosing and risk information for children and teenagers in their labeling.
Bettis, a 12-year NFL veteran when he retired in 2005, appeared at the news conference to discuss his advocacy for patients who suffer from asthma, the leading chronic disease among American children. Diagnosed with asthma at 14, Bettis went on to play football at the University of Notre Dame and had a stellar NFL career, playing with the St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2005, he helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory in his home town of Detroit. "I'm living proof that patients don't have to let asthma stop them," he said. "That's why educating Americans about asthma control is so important to me."
Bruschi, the other former NFL great at today's press conference, stressed his passion for helping sick children understand there is hope. The father of three young sons, he is recognized for his work with pediatric patients. Among his many citations and awards is the 2007 Wish Hero Award from the Massachusetts Make-A-Wish Foundation. The award is given to individuals and organizations "that bring hope, strength and joy" to sick children all over Massachusetts.
"There is nothing more important than the health and happiness of our children," Bruschi said. "It's an honor when someone asks me to talk to sick kids who are facing life-threatening situations. It's something I'm proud to do. Our children are the future of America."
Both Bruschi and Bettis also emphasized the importance of patient assistance programs for pediatric patients whose families are uninsured and struggling financially to make sure they receive the care they need. They said it was important for patients to learn about the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA).
SOURCE Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America