Research on drugs for heart disease does not always translate into a pipeline for cures but it certainly is a pipeline for hope. As much as I beat up drugs and drug companies they do provide useful tools for combatting heart disease if properly used. Well, Pfizer just dropped a bomb on that pipeline when an internal memo was leaked stating that Pfizer will drop development of drugs for hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, and heart failure
"We intend to exit these Disease Areas: Anemia, Atherosclerosis/Hyperlipidemia, Bone Health/Frailty, GI, Heart Failure, Liver Fibrosis, Muscle, Obesity, Osteoarthritis (disease modifying concepts only) and Peripheral Arterial Disease."
Recall that Pfizer had invested billions and recruited leading heart disease researchers to produce blockbuster heart-related drugs such as the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin (Lipitor) and the blood pressure drug amlopidine (Norvasc). No doubt their decision was fueled in part by the multi-billion dollar flop of what they thought would be their next blockbuster drug, torcetrapib, a CETP inhibitor that promised to raise HDL cholesterol by 50% or more. While it did indeed raise HDL dramatically it exhibited side-effects that increased mortality during testing.
Although long-term effect of this loss of talent and capital to heart disease drug research is murky the announcement certainly signals a delay in heart-drug development as research teams are disbanded or reassigned into other areas and new investment capital is sought. To say this is a teribble loss to heart disease sufferers is an understatement. Dr John Kastelein an investigator in several Pfizer-sponsored heart trials referred to Pfizer as "a real powerhouse" in the CV drug arena. Kastelein added, "I think this is very, very significant both for the company itself and for the whole field of CV drug development. Pfizer had truly excellent people in the development arm of their company for CV and metabolic drugs. And if they're stepping out now, that not only signifies their own problems, but it also signifies the problems in CV drug development, and how incredibly difficult and costly it has become to bring new drugs forward. And that's not good for patients."
The moral of this story is that we as heart disease sufferers must lean even harder on the weapons we have today rather than waiting for new "magic bullets." The take way message here is to stop betting on tomorrow and start working with what you have today. Fortunately, the Track Your Plaque progam works exceedingly well with the arsenal at hand. Use it!
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