Despite enormous progress made during the last decades in reducing heart disease death and disability, too many people are still dying. Amazing medicines and lifestyle changes that lower bad cholesterol, high blood pressure and some other classic risk factors are widely available and widely utilized. And yet, at the same time, according to the AHA, the number of Americans with cardiovascular disease will rise to an estimated 131.2 million people by the year 2035, with costs expected to reach $1.1 trillion. The rise in the number of cardiovascular deaths is already evident in recent data, reversing a decades-long downward trend.
Cardiovascular outcomes and real-world evidence studies point to a large and growing patient population that has escaped attention — a population much larger than previously considered. A convergence of lipid disorders, diabetes, obesity, and other risk factors is coming into focus, including changing the way we think about cardiovascular dangers and how we identify patients at risk.
Recent news in cardiovascular science helps us understand what threats exist and where we should focus further attention. My company’s $300 million investment in cardiovascular research is one initiative among many looking to advance knowledge, understanding, and treatment in a population that has multiple heart-disease risk factors. These studies are designed to provide data that will hopefully lead to improved options for preventive cardiovascular care and help guide physicians, payers, patients, and product innovators to re-intensify efforts around reducing heart disease risk through prevention, diagnosis, and intervention.
Bringing about meaningful change for this newly identified, at-risk population requires collaboration — and quickly. The drug industry must commit to strong, enduring, transparent partnerships with organizations like the AHA that raise awareness, educate, and inspire action to help the patients we all ultimately serve.
Industry leaders in the biopharma sector must step forward to advance collective efforts to improve human health with preventative therapy that is effective, easy to administer, affordable, and well tolerated for this large but diverse population of patients. We cannot succeed alone — and neither can the advocacy community.
This call-to-action requires stepping out of a comfort zone of seeking relatively quick solutions to isolated issues. This issue is chronic, large, and growing. Industry brings research power that fuels clinical insight; the advocacy community brings communications power that educates the public and amplifies the voice of the patient. The key to successful collaboration is to always look for where and how our purpose and mission converge for the benefit of patients.
As business leaders, it is essential that we effectively address employee and shareholder needs. Yet, being in the presence of hundreds of the attendees at the recent New York City American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Ball — so many cardiovascular research pioneers, volunteers, and patient advocates who commit to reducing the risks of heart disease and stroke, and listening to patients’ stories, is an important reminder of our ultimate mission. That is to cost-effectively improve care and save lives.
Industry can and must do a better job of building relationships with others that will hasten these objectives — for the cost of disease unchecked is too expensive for our society to bear and falls short of our ultimate mission.
John Thero is CEO of Amarin. This year he served as the chairman of the American Heart Association’s and American Stroke Association’s Heart & Stroke Ball.