New Advancements in Autoimmune Diseases Bring Hope

Did you know:

Right now, there are more than 300 medicines currently in the research pipeline for autoimmune diseases!

This is a tremendous amount of medications in development, and speaks to the hard work and efforts of thousands of individuals currently focused on preventing and curing autoimmune diseases, all while helping to treat patients currently diagnosed.

PhRMA recently partnered with the Lupus Foundation of America to release, “Medicines in Development | 2016 Report.” Written with the theme, “From Hope to Cures: Autoimmune Diseases,” it covers just how biopharmaceutical researchers are working to better respond to the hopes and needs of patients with autoimmune diseases.

You can find the complete report here, but we’ll cover some of the key highlights below.

What is an Autoimmune Disease?

A fully-functioning immune system is able to tell good cells from bad cells, helping to protect your body from infections, foreign objects and other causes of illness. Unfortunately, some immune systems have trouble distinguishing between good and bad, attacking the body’s healthy cells, organs and tissues.

While the causes of autoimmune diseases are unclear, a significant amount of research is dedicated to understanding factors that could increase the likelihood of such diseases. These factors may include genetics, chemicals, environmental surroundings and diet, but there is a long way to go in clarifying these factors’ role on the development of these diseases, which more commonly affect women than men.

What Types of Medicines are in Development?

The report provides more details about the variety of medications in development, including:

  • 76 medications in development for autoimmune types of arthritis
  • 58 medications in development for inflammatory bowel disease
  • 39 medications in development for lupus
  • 34 medications in development for type 1 diabetes
  • 32 medications in development for multiple sclerosis

Medications currently in development aren’t the only ones being studied. Some medications already approved for autoimmune diseases are being applied to treat additional conditions! This is helpful, especially as individuals with a single autoimmune disease can often be diagnosed with a second autoimmune disease, as well, or be diagnosed with other immunity-related conditions.

The Challenges of Diagnosing and Researching Autoimmune Diseases

The report covers a variety of challenges faced by researchers studying autoimmune diseases, which can be very complex. As many diseases share similar symptoms and consequences on patients’ bodies, individual diagnoses can be hard to make. The symptoms of these diseases can also come and go, making it hard to study consistently and track the effectiveness of treatments. Finally, patients with co-occurring conditions or uncertain diagnoses have a more difficult time being enrolled in clinical trials that may be able to help them, while helping to inform research.

Despite these challenges, significant progress has been made in treating a number of autoimmune diseases. Patients with multiple sclerosis have many more medication options than they did just 10 years ago. These medications have fewer side effects, while serving to reduce relapses and improve quality of life. Meanwhile, strides have been successfully made in treating the underlying causes of rheumatoid arthritis, now making remission possible. Previous medications could only treat the symptoms.

Much of this research is taking place right here in New York. In June of 2016, researchers at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City reported finding “virus-like elements within the human genome that may be a potential genetic trigger of systemic autoimmune disease.” Learn more about this potential breakthrough here.

With 311 medications now in development, we can be assured further progress in understanding and treating autoimmune diseases, improving the quality of lives of millions of Americans!