• Press Office

    Posted in category News Release by Press Office on 15/12/2003

    Pharmaceutical Industry works on developing more medicines for women, children and the elderly

Dozens of new medicines designed for diseases specifically affecting women, children and people in the developed and developing world have been produced over the past five years, and many hundreds more are in the research and development pipeline, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said today.


​In addition to discovering, developing and producing medicines, the British-based pharmaceutical industry has also worked with the UK Government on initiatives to help both children and older people while, internationally, it has played a major role in co-operating with national governments, international organisations and voluntary bodies to seek lasting solutions to healthcare problems in the developing world.

"The pharmaceutical industry in the UK is one of the most innovative in the world, and its research programme embraces an enormous range of disease 'targets'," said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI.

"The industry invests nearly £9 million every day in Britain alone in the search for new medicines and has produced an enormous range of treatments that are, in many cases,

life-savers – for example, childhood leukaemia. Vaccines have all but eliminated many of the diseases that used to afflict children, while new medicines to tackle, for example, breast and ovarian cancers have saved or extended the lives of millions of women.

"As far as the diseases that are preponderant among older people, much has been done to understand the causes of conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. There are already many medicines available in these areas, and many more are at various stages of the research process. In addition, we have developed many new treatments for a wide range of cancers, for osteoporosis and for heart disease."

The introduction of the European legislation to encourage the development of 'orphan' medicines - to tackle diseases that affect comparatively few people as well as those of the developing world - has produced a big response in the past two years. More than 160 different, potential treatments are registered under this legislation.

Areas where the pharmaceutical industry has been especially active include:

  • Women
  • Breast cancer, where survival rates for a five-year period after diagnosis have increased enormously in a 20-year period. Taxanes have proved especially effective in this area and breakthrough treatments such as medicines against the cancer gene HER2-new.
  • Osteoporosis, which has an estimated 2.1 million women sufferers in England and Wales. Effective medicinal treatments available include bisphosphonates, SERMs (selective oestrogen receptor modulators), calcitonin and calcium and vitamin supplements.
  • Menopausal symptoms and endometriosis.
  • Migraine, which is up to four times more common in women than men. There are many effective medicines to treat migraine that are suitable for a large majority of people.
  • Elderly people
  • Alzheimer's disease had no medicinal treatment until a few years ago, but there are now several available. Dozens of others are in various stages of development by pharmaceutical companies. Research also extends to other forms of dementia suffered by older people.
  • Parkinson's disease is strongly linked with age, with the average age of onset being about 60. A number of new medicines slow down the onset of Parkinson's and, as medical science's understanding of the human brain increases, so the prospect of finding newer and better answers increases.
  • Cancer. In recent years, entirely new treatments have been introduced for lung cancer, chronic myloid leukaemia and prostate cancer.
  • Diabetes has seen an entirely new category of medicines discovered and introduced to supplement or replace the use of insulin.
  • Respiratory disorders. New medicines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have just been introduced.
  • Heart conditions. Recently, there has been a major reduction in deaths from heart conditions through the Government-backed use of medicines to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Children Vaccines have been developed to protect children against many diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella. Another childhood scourge, polio, has been eliminated thanks to vaccines. Recently, vaccines against meningitis have been introduced for routine use.
  • Developing world. New treatments have been developed for a large number of diseases especially associated with the developing world, especially HIV/AIDS, malaria, sleeping sickness, trachoma, elephantiasis, river blindness, leprosy and many more.

In addition to these conditions, there are many others for which the pharmaceutical industry has already produced medicines or is in the process of researching and developing them," said Dr Jones.

"It must also be remembered that many diseases make no distinction of gender, age or where you live, and treatments for these are, in many respects, universal."

As well as being the source of modern medicines, the UK-based pharmaceutical industry also has an excellent track record in co-operating with government.

Most recently, it has been an active partner in producing National Service Frameworks (NSFs), which are guidelines of how conditions, or people in certain categories, should be treated in general terms, not solely relating to medicines. Such NSFs have particularly included both children and older people.

Industry carries out about three-quarters of all UK research into modern medicines, but it also collaborates with researchers working for other organisations, including academia, medical charities, the NHS and the Government's Medical Research Council.

"While such collaboration is extremely valuable, it would be quite wrong to suggest that our research endeavour should be determined by the Government," said Dr Jones. "In 70 years of centrally-directed medical research, the Soviet Union produced only one significant medicine.

"The UK-based industry is extremely innovative as well as competitive, with a large and varied pipeline of products, including many for children, women, older people and developing world nations. This must be allowed to continue if these research projects are to produce the medicines that will help people of both sexes and all ages, race and nationalities."

For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410

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