Some of the most prevalent health conditions on the planet claim millions of lives every year. Companies from across the healthcare sector are constantly innovating to try to combat these illnesses, pushing hard to find breakthrough cures and quality of life improvements. In today’s article, this issue is discussed with reference to Verona Pharma (NASDAQ: VRNA), Insulet Corporation (NASDAQ: PODD), Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and Cardiol Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CRDL) (TSX: CRDL.TO).
Cardiovascular diseases are the biggest cause of death today, with more than 800,000 Americans suffering from heart attacks every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, CDC data from 2018 indicated that more than 30 million Americans were living with heart disease.
Cardiol Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CRDL) (TSX: CRDL.TO) aims to develop treatments to help people live more comfortably with heart conditions. Their primary focus of interest is on treatments for acute myocarditis, recurrent pericarditis, and diastolic heart failure.
The company is currently researching and developing an anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic therapy for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Its lead product candidate, CardiolRx™, is a pharmaceutically produced oral formulation being clinically designed for use in cardiovascular medicine.
Most recently, Cardiol Therapeutics announced that it had received authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin a trial examining the tolerance and safety of CardiolRx™ in patients suffering from recurrent pericarditis.
This condition, along with acute myocarditis, are classed as an orphan disease in the United States, making CardiolRx™ eligible for orphan drug status under the FDA’s Orphan Drug Designation program. This program brings benefits such as fee exemptions and even the potential for seven years of market exclusivity following a drug’s approval.
Cardiol Therapeutics’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr Andrew Hamer, commented:
“With Investigational New Drug authorization now in place, we look forward to ramping up initiation of this important study. We also anticipate benefiting from the clinical trial infrastructure already established for our multi-national acute myocarditis study, which is expected to commence patient enrollment imminently.”
While cardiovascular diseases might be the planet’s leading cause of death, respiratory diseases are also a huge issue. Among the companies developing treatments in this space is Verona Pharma (NASDAQ: VRNA), which is developing drugs to combat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is a group of lung conditions that can cause sufferers great difficulties with breathing due to factors such as lung damage and inflammation of the airways. They generally affect people over the age of 35 and are particularly prevalent in individuals who smoke or used to smoke.
According to Verona, 384 million people around the world suffer from COPD, with the condition constituting the planet’s third most prevalent cause of death. As such, there is significant demand for treatments, with the company estimating that global sales of COPD drugs amounted to $13.6bn in 2019.
The company’s current projects include Ensifentrine, which is intended as a treatment for COPD and other respiratory diseases, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis. It has anti-inflammatory properties and functions as a bronchodilator, improving patients’ breathing by relaxing muscles in the lungs and widening airways.
Positive results have been achieved in trials involving more than 1,400 patients and Verona Pharma has also indicated that the drug could be an effective treatment for cystic fibrosis.
Diabetes is another huge health problem for humanity. The World Health Organization says that more than 420 million people across the globe have diabetes, with more than 1.5 million people dying from the condition each year.
Insulet Corporation (NASDAQ: PODD) is a Massachusetts-based medical equipment business that is seeking to provide simpler insulin delivery methods for people who live with diabetes.
The company’s Omnipod Insulin Management System offers pump delivery rather than multiple daily injections. According to Insulet, this means improved glycaemic control, fewer hypoglycaemic events, reduced glycaemic variability and a better quality of life for patients.
Indeed, in early June the company announced that a recent study had found that 12 months of use of its pump technology resulted in significantly improved glycaemic outcomes for children between the ages of 2 and 6.
Insulet added that clinical data showed that its Omnipod 5 technology resulted in improved outcomes for adults and children who lived with Type 1 diabetes, as well as adults dealing with Type 2 diabetes.
In addition to these applications in relation to diabetes, the company says it leverages the technology behind Omnipod to allow for the delivery of non-insulin subcutaneous drugs, creating additional applications across alternative therapeutic areas.
Cancer is another monumental healthcare challenge. Figures provided by the World Cancer Research Fund International put the total number of estimated new cancer cases in 2020 at more than 18 million. What’s more, the National Cancer Institute puts the cancer death rate at 158.3 per 100,000 men and women per year.
Novartis (NYSE: NVS) is a company that has found success recently in pushing for approval with cancer treatments.
In late June the company received FDA approval for its Tafinlar® (dabrafenib) + Mekinist® (trametinib) treatments in some adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older who have no alternative treatment options for their unresectable or metastatic solid tumors.
While this is something of a niche approval, the company will be hoping that the treatment will achieve some success in these seriously ill patients and see its approval expanded.
Novartis Oncology US Head, Reshema Kemps-Polanco, commented:
“Tackling cancer is complex, which is why it is so important that we continue to follow the science as we pursue meaningful advances and new approaches to treating cancer. We are grateful to the patients, and to the multitude of individuals and teams working together to make this latest approval possible as we strive to do more for more people living with cancer.”
This combined treatment is just one facet of Novartis’ expansive set of oncology products, which includes more than 20 different medications developed to improve the lives of patients.