Top 5 Public Health Concerns Life Sciences Can Address
Life science product development can sometimes be a niche enterprise, and for good reason—certain populations and conditions require specific solutions and treatments. Providing these can be a boon to both patient outcomes and your organization’s bottom line, as well as progressing that particular field of treatment.
In contrast, the broader public health market might seem like a crowded arena, where opportunities are less lucrative and innovations are not as effective. However, many issues in public health are increasing (sometimes at very rapid paces) and need to be addressed by private and public entities alike. Identifying some of the top public health concerns and how your organization could take care of them is worth consideration by your life science organization.
Alzheimer’s disease— one of the most elusive conditions to treat in modern medicine—is a growing healthcare concern. The CDC predicts the disease could become the fourth leading cause of death in the US by 2030. Nationally, close to 500,000 patients died from the disease in 2015, and that number is rising. With no guaranteed treatment on the horizon, the impetus for life science innovation in Alzheimer’s care is more important than ever.
Currently there are about five Alzheimer’s drugs approved by FDA intended to treat the symptoms of the disease. While these drugs provide a respite from symptoms, they are only a temporary fix; more research and development for treating the disease’s underlying causes is needed.
For this complex disease, one approach will not be enough; a combination of treatments aimed at several elements of the disease will likely be needed. Solutions that interrupt or slow the disease process also need to be developed. In addition, advancing devices and digital health products for Alzheimer’s management, lifestyle improvement, and/or screening and intervention is worth consideration.
Opioid Abuse Disorders
Rates of opioid abuse and related fatalities have dramatically risen over the past decade. In 2007, opioid deaths surpassed car collisions as the number one cause of injury to Americans. The US is now responsible for over 75 percent of the world’s opioid abuse, and the number of average deaths could spike from 100 to 250 per day in the next ten years. There has never been a more critical time for life science industries to step up and offer solutions for mitigating this crisis, as well as improving patient outcomes.
Current treatments revolve around early intervention, prevention, craving reduction through other drugs (methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and so on). Some organizations have already submitted alternate opioids with more risk controls built in, but regulators are still grappling with how to approach these products. New life science products that interrupt the opioid epidemic similarly run into this concern of FDA and other agencies, but there are plenty of regulatory initiatives for partnership between government and industry.
The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has become a far more prevalent issue in recent years—partially as an effect of the opioid crisis. In the US alone, over 3.5 million people currently have HCV, and that number is rising. Projections from CDC estimate a three-fold increase in HCV cases by 2030. While fairly treatable when caught early on, these estimates still lay out a major public health concern.
While some HCV patients’ immune systems can tackle the infection on their own, the majority of patients need some form of medical intervention. Combinations of antiviral meds, such as direct-acting antivirals, need to be taken for up to 12 weeks. Afterward, patients are considered cured if the virus is no longer detected 12 weeks after treatment is completed. These current methods of addressing HCV, while effective, are cost-intensive and may not be adequate for managing increased numbers of cases in the next decade.
The main areas of focus for life science organizations looking to work on HCV include prevention, early intervention, and symptom management. Reducing HCV’s impacts from liver inflammation to cirrhosis will require solutions and products that help slow down or help prevent disease complications. Lower-cost drugs, screening and diagnostic tools, and other advancements can help patients control and manage HCV and related risks.
Over 600,000 Americans die each year due to cardiovascular disease (CVD). There are a number of CVD issues that industry and regulators need to attend to, including:
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Heart valve issues
Many original products and solutions exist for CVD treatment, prevention, and management, but there is precedent for continued research and development. Technologies that can aid in earlier detection, screening, and lifestyle management are going to be crucial for treating CVD in the future. Devices like pacemakers or cardioverter defibrillators likewise need to keep pace with AI, big data analytics, and interconnection with software and other interfaces to incorporate more precise treatment.
The American Medical Association first classified obesity as a disease in 2013, and that designation is essential to facing this epidemic. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a study within the last few years predicting that over half of Americans may be obese by 2030, and detailing what effects that would have on a national level. Over $140 billion is spent annually on obesity-related medical costs, and within the next decade that could rise to over $200 billion. Productivity losses due to disability, illness, and premature mortality will also add to US economic costs.
The health complications of obesity become more prevalent as rates of obesity increase, too. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and sleep apnea are among the top concerns, as is increased morbidity. All of these healthcare concerns correspondingly stress our current healthcare systems. If life science industries are slow to respond, these impacts on patient outcomes and system stability could become more acute.
The Case for Life Science Innovation in Public Health
Innovative life science products, ideas, and solutions are changing and improving patient outcomes like never before. Rare and difficult-to-manage conditions now have greater options for diagnosis, treatment, symptom management, and overall care. And, while these innovations are both beneficial to patient populations and your bottom line, their narrow focus can be limiting.
Addressing public health issues allows your organization to develop a broader portfolio while still playing to your strengths. There’s also an economic incentive beyond your bottom line; these public health issues strain healthcare systems and result in losses of economic productivity. If your workforces deal with these chronic conditions, you could lose time and resources while your personnel deal with managing their treatment, symptoms, and related health consequences.
Making the case for life science innovation in public health is sometimes difficult, but all too necessary. The public sector needs private enterprises to collaborate with them. Your life science organization can still be competitive and innovative in public health markets, and this should be taken seriously as you work to develop future products, services, and solutions.
About Cognition Corporation
At Cognition, our goal is to provide medical device and pharmaceutical companies with collaborative solutions to the compliance problems they face every day, allowing the customer to focus on their products rather than the system used to create them. We know we are successful when our customers have seamlessly integrated a quality system, making day-to-day compliance effortless and freeing up resources to focus on product safety and efficacy.