Drug Research Advances Reported by Industry Group

Article excerpt

Sometimes drug breakthroughs are loudly heralded, then quietly fade from public attention. At other times, the public and even health-care professionals are unaware of important developments taking place. To remind everyone, the drug industry is starting to call attention to what it believes are "significant advances in pharmaceutical research." The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America recently released a "top 10" list for 1995 and said it would begin reporting what it believes are similar steps forward every quarter.

Here is PhRMA's 1995 list:

* The Food & Drug Administration approved Fosamax (alendronate sodium, Merck & Co.), the first nonhormonal treatment for osteoporosis in women. Alendronate sodium was found to reduce the incidence of new spinal fractures by 48%; it also increased bone mass in the spine by 8.8%, in two hip sites by 5.9% and 7.8%, and throughout the body by 2.5%, according to a study published in the Nov. 30 New England Journal of Medicine. The drug is viewed as particularly important for women who cannot take estrogen because of various side effects.

* A study in the January issue of Annals of Internal Medicine further supported the role of estrogens in reducing postmenopausal risk of fractures. It found 71% fewer broken hips and wrists and 50% fewer nonspinal fractures in women aged 65 and up who began taking estrogen regularly within five years of menopause.

* Clot-dissolving Activase (alterplase, Genentech) is an effective treatment for acute ischemic stroke, according to a five-year study reported in the Dec. 14 NEJM. The drug's current indications are for acute myocardial infarction and acute massive pulmonary embolism.

* The first drug to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis won FDA clearance in midDecember. Rilutek (riluzole, RhonePoulenc Rorer) extends patients' lives by an average of three months compared with a placebo in clinical trials.

* Also in December, the FDA approved Invirase (saquinavir, Hoffmann-La Roche), the first of the protease inhibitor class of AIDS drugs. …

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