Breakthroughs In Treating Killer Diseases Could Lengthen Life

By Patricia Miller

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The healthcare industry is fighting back against the world's top killer diseases, aiming to prolong lives and provide better standards of care for millions of people around the world.

According to the World Health Organization, top global killers include heart failure, COPD, cancers, Alzheimer’s, neonatal conditions, and diabetes. Therefore, discovering viable treatments for these issues is a worthwhile endeavor that could reduce the economic burden and potentially lengthen life. Here we consider this regarding GlaxoSmithKline Plc (NYSE: GSK), AstraZeneca Plc (NASDAQ: AZN), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY), and Cardiol Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CRDL) (TSX: CRDL).

Sadly, the Global Burden of Disease Study, published in October 2020, suggests that the world might be approaching a turning point in life expectancy gains. The study reveals a rise in exposure to key risk factors, combined with rising deaths from cardiovascular disease in some countries. This highlights the urgent need for global progress on healthcare and remedies.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Johnson & Johnson are working on treatments for respiratory diseases, AstraZeneca Plc is making strides in oncology medications, while Eli Lilly is developing life-altering Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer drugs. Each of these drugs could potentially lead to extended life expectancy.

However, the number one global cause of death is cardiovascular disease (CVD), an area where innovation is particularly welcome. Cardiol Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CRDL) (TSX: CRDL) is one company hoping to make significant strides in this space.

Heart failure has remained the leading cause of death globally for the last 20 years, further exacerbated by mounting diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure cases. Over 550,000 new heart disease cases are diagnosed in the U.S. annually. This devastating condition destroys quality of life, often results in death, and causes a severe economic burden.

Cardiol Therapeutics is focused on researching and developing an anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic therapy to treat CVD. Its lead product candidate, CardiolRx™, is a pharmaceutically produced oral formulation being clinically developed for use in cardiovascular medicine.

The company currently has one multi-national clinical trial ongoing, with another expected to commence shortly. Furthermore, it has just announced its third FDA IND authorization in CVD for its flagship formulation CardiolRx™.

This new IND authorization is for investigating the potential use of CardiolRx™ in treating patients with recurrent pericarditis, a cardiovascular, inflammatory disease and the most common of pericardial diseases. The company will evaluate whether this intervention could be a therapeutic option for those who are intolerant to current medical treatment or who require long-term administration of corticosteroids to control their disease.

Pericarditis refers to inflammation of the pericardium – the membrane, or sac, surrounding the heart. Symptoms include debilitating chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue, which result in physical limitations, reduced quality of life, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations.

Cardiol's multicenter Phase II open-label pilot study of CardiolRx™ for recurrent pericarditis will run parallel with the company's multi-national Phase II acute myocarditis trial, which is expected to commence imminently.

Cardiol believes there is a significant opportunity to develop its oral formulation of CardiolRx™ as an orphan drug designation for the treatment of acute myocarditis and recurrent pericarditis, potentially adding significantly more value to the company.

Cardiol is also advancing its subcutaneous formulation of CardiolRx™ as a potential anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic therapy for treating chronic heart failure, specifically diastolic heart failure. There are 64.3 million people with heart failure globally, and it remains a leading cause of death and hospitalization. Associated annual healthcare costs in the U.S. alone exceed $30bn.

If Cardiol achieves its long-term goal of developing a treatment for diastolic heart failure, the addressable market will be huge. This is a massive health problem in the western world with no current standard of care. Plus, it is a condition that continues to grow in the developed world due to an increase in diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Cardiol Therapeutics is well funded through to 2024 and has no debt. As of March 2022, it had $74.8m in the bank, and 11% of its shares were insider and employee owned. It also had 4% ownership by pharmaceutical partners and research collaborators.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc (NYSE: GSK) is a pharmaceutical company with a strong portfolio of innovative and established medicines with leading market positions in respiratory disease and HIV. It is also a world leader in vaccine production. In 2021, GSK respiratory sales were up 21% AER, on the growth of Trelegy, which treats COPD and asthma, and Nucala for severe asthma.

AstraZeneca Plc (NASDAQ: AZN) achieved global distinction for its COVID-19 vaccine, but the company also treats a diverse range of conditions. In Q1, its Oncology total revenue grew 25% Y/Y, despite COVID-19 continuing to impact cancer diagnosis and treatment. AstraZeneca presented new data across its diverse portfolio of cancer medicines at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Genitourinary Cancers Symposium (ASCO GU) in February 2022.

The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) achieved positive results from its Phase 2b CYPRESS study of its respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) adult vaccine candidate. Results show that the vaccine candidate effectively protected against three clinical definitions of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV. It demonstrated vaccine efficacy of 70% to 80% in adults aged 65 and older. RSV is a very contagious virus and debilitating disease for both the very young and old.

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) has a growing portfolio of medicines, including treatments in the areas of bone muscle joint, cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes, endocrine, immunology, neurodegeneration, neuroscience, and pain. The FDA recently approved Lilly's Mounjaro™ (tirzepatide) injection. This is the first and only GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist for treating adults with type 2 diabetes.

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