It’s an amazing time to be alive.
Every year, medical breakthroughs make our lives easier. In some cases, terrible diseases are vanquished or made manageable conditions rather than the death sentences of previous generations.
Today, I want to highlight a few incredible advances in medicine and the companies behind them.
We’ve come a long way in the fight against breast cancer. In fact, some forms of breast cancer are completely treatable, and patients can expect to live a full life.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for all forms of the disease.
Triple negative breast cancer does not have any of three important hormone receptors. These receptors are targeted by many of the existing cancer therapies. So triple negative breast cancer is difficult to treat. It also tends to be an aggressive cancer. Ten percent to 20% of all breast cancers are triple negative.
Last week, news broke that Roche Holding‘s (OTC: RHHBY) treatment Tecentriq was the first immunotherapy to help patients with triple negative breast cancer.
An immunotherapy drug boosts the body’s immune system to fight cancer. This class of drugs is relatively new and has immensely helped patients with difficult-to-treat cancers.
Tecentriq, combined with chemotherapy, increased progression-free survival (how long a tumor doesn’t grow) to 7.2 months from 5.0 months for patients on chemo alone. Patients with a specific biomarker on their tumor cells saw a wider increase to 7.5 months from 5 months.
That may not sound like a lot. But medicine builds upon existing knowledge. Now that scientists know that immunotherapy can work on this deadly disease, they have a better chance of creating new drugs that will have an even larger effect.
This summer, my son came home at 11:30 at night and told us his friend’s dog had bitten him. It turns out that was an exaggeration. My son’s hand ran into the dog’s tooth while he was playing with it. There was no blood or anything, but the skin was broken.
My wife and I were leaving on an overseas trip the next morning, so we didn’t want to take a chance that his hand could become infected. The only place we could see a doctor in our area was an emergency room. It cost us $1,400, and they didn’t even give him a Band-Aid.
Next time, I’m going to try telemedicine first.
Telemedicine allows you to talk to a doctor or a nurse practitioner, often 24 hours a day, seven days a week, depending on the service. And it’s much cheaper too. Some appointments cost as little as $18.
Through apps like Doctors On Demand, MD Live or Teladoc (NYSE: TDOC), you can talk to a doctor, get referred to specialists and get prescriptions written. And if you need to go to an emergency room, they’ll tell you.
If an issue doesn’t seem urgent, from now on, I’m going to save myself $1,400 and use telemedicine.
We’re not quite at the point where an artificial pancreas can monitor and release glucose. But we’re getting close.
What we do have is a hybrid closed-loop pump. It is a monitor and pump that goes under the skin. The patient still must take their insulin, but the system will release insulin throughout the day based on the patient’s real-time individual needs.
Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) makes the MiniMed 670G system, which has been on the market for two years and was just approved in Canada two weeks ago.
Chances are you or someone you know suffers from migraine headaches. They can be debilitating. And chronic sufferers can have 15 or more a month. I have one relative who previously got several a week. It’s a miracle he was able to raise a family and have a successful career. The headaches stopped when his mother died. He hasn’t had one since. True story.
Several new drugs have been approved for people who get multiple migraines per month. Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) and Novartis (NYSE: NVS) teamed up to create Aimovig as a preventative. Patients who take the drug get fewer headaches per month. Aimovig was approved in the spring.
Ajovy, which is manufactured by Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TEVA), received FDA approval a month ago.
Eli Lilly‘s (NYSE: LLY) Emgality was also approved last month for the prevention of migraines.
A fourth medicine, eptinezumab, made by Alder Biopharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ALDR), could see FDA approval next year.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Lastly, Amarin (Nasdaq: AMRN) recently released stunning results for its drug Vascepa, which is purified fish oil. Vascepa reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke by a whopping 25%.
Vascepa could be an extremely important breakthrough, considering it will be inexpensive and millions of people could be appropriate candidates for the drug.
It seems like every day there’s exciting health news about new treatments for awful diseases. We still have a long way to go on many of them, but just a quick glimpse at the list above tells you we’re moving in the right direction.