Opinion

Working to Make Longer Life Even Longer

In 1900, you could expect to live to around age 31. By 2010, you could expect more than twice as long a life – longer than 67 years.

A lot has changed in the last century, but much of the astounding increase in life expectancy can be attributed to improvements in global public health. And in 2015, we now know that in the U.S. we could tack on an additional seven years of life expectancy if we eradicate one vexing problem: cardiovascular disease.

Despite being largely preventable, high cholesterol is a main risk factor for cardiovascular disease. While millions of Americans are able to reach a safe cholesterol level by taking statin therapies, an estimated 10 million still have uncontrolled cholesterol despite treatment, and an alarming 35 percent of Americans – 87 million people – have already progressed to some form of cardiovascular disease, a figure expected to grow to 44 percent by 2030.

For the 10 million who continue to struggle with uncontrolled cholesterol and remain at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, many could potentially reach their cholesterol goal by taking medicines more consistently, combining treatments or changing dosage, and implementing lifestyle changes such as new diets and exercise routines. But for those still unable to control their cholesterol levels, a new class of cholesterol-lowering medicines may help turn this worrying tide.

These new medicines are known as PCSK9 inhibitors. And they may help individuals who face a high risk of developing serious and costly cardiovascular complications like heart attack and stroke.

PSCK9 inhibitors mimic a natural mutation in the gene that regulates the breakdown of bad cholesterol. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the new medicines can cut cholesterol levels by more than half – an even greater drop than that currently provided by statins.

The search for cures and treatments for some of the most common chronic illnesses is absolutely essential. Right now, cardiovascular disease tallies up to 15 percent of total U.S. health expenditures, the greatest proportion of any disease area. By 2030, total direct medical costs associated with all cardiovascular disease will more than double to $918 billion.

We can’t know what man’s life expectancy will be in another 100 years. But continued medical innovation gives hope for an even brighter future. Perhaps our descendants will look back to today and remark that PCSK9’s offered real human progress. To learn more, visit fromhopetocures.org/heartdisease.

John Castellani is president and CEO of PhRMA.

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