As science and medicine progresses, the research community has had an incredible effect on life expectancy and I’ve looked at seven of the greatest discoveries to impact human health.
breakthrough treatments that is changing medicine in 2021
10. New class of migraine medications
For more than 38 million Americans, migraines are a real pain, usually treated with multipurpose drugs not specifically earmarked to prevent the condition. Typical options include blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs. These nonspecific treatments exhibit mixed efficacy. In 2018, a new class of drugs that blocks a molecule called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) hit the scene. CGRP levels shoot up during a migraine. In 2020, clinicians were prescribing the drug in earnest, signifying a new epoch for migraine treatment.
9. PARP inhibitors
Although there have been recent prostate cancer treatment advances, this disease remains the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. Enter PARP inhibitors, which block PARP proteins that repair damaged tumor DNA in people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. To be sure, PARP inhibitors are not exactly new, and have been used to treat cancer in women. But, the FDA approval of two of these drugs in May 2020 to treat refractory prostate cancer and DNA repair pathway mutations is notable.
8. Vacuum-induced uterine tamponade device
Childbirth should be a joyous experience. But between 1% and 5% of women experience postpartum hemorrhage, which is a tragic complication. Treatments include blood transfusions, drugs with dangerous adverse effects, and acute hysterectomy. Until now, balloon devices have been the only nonsurgical option for this dreaded complication. Vacuum-induced uterine tamponade changed all that by creating negative pressure in the uterus to collapse the bleeding cavity and shut off leaking blood vessels. This low-cost, noninvasive procedure may prove particularly useful in developing countries with limited access to other treatment options.
7. Leaps and bounds in telemedicine
Telemedicine isn’t new, but thanks to COVID-19, patient virtual visits boomed. A sea change in policy at the provider and government levels facilitated this virtual move, with state and federal regulators swiftly reducing barriers to the technology starting in March 2020. In recent months, we’ve seen a wave of telehealth initiatives and expansions to extant networks.
6. Bubble CPAP
Another childbirth advance highlighted by the Cleveland Clinic is bubble CPAP (b-CPAP), a ventilation breakthrough used to treat infant respiratory distress syndrome. The new technology obviates the application of surfactant during mechanical ventilation, a practice that can cause permanent damage to the lungs and lead to chronic lung disease. Fortunately, b-CPAP is noninvasive, and delivers continuous positive airway pressure to newborns to support exhalation lung volumes. Benefits of this novel approach include safety, efficacy, minimal barotrauma, and stimulation of lung growth when administered over an extended duration.
5. Universal hepatitis C treatment
Hepatitis C is nothing to scoff at, with infection possibly lethal and resulting in liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. No vaccine exists against this virus, and historically drugs used to treat this infection have led to serious adverse effects, in addition to only working in subsets of the population based on genotype. Fortunately, newly approved fixed-dose combinations of the medication have proven much better therapeutic options, with efficacy topping 90% in genotypes one through six, opening the door to successful treatment in more people with the disease.
4. Updated cystic fibrosis treatment
Renewed hope came in the form of wider efficacy of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) modulators. Previous iterations of the drug corrected protein action in only a subset of those with the disease, but a new combination drug, approved by the FDA in October 2019, expanded efficacy to those with the most common CF gene mutation (F508 del), which is harbored by 90% of those with the disease.
3. ‘Smart’ pacemakers/defibrillators
What’s better than a remotely monitored pacemaker or defibrillator? One that is monitored by a smartphone via Bluetooth, of course! Remote monitoring requires a bedside console that transmits data to the clinician. Adherence to remote monitoring has been patchy, with patients lacking insight into how the device functions. Smartphones plus mobile apps provide patients greater insight into their life-saving devices and transmit data to the provider.
2. New drug for primary-progressive multiple sclerosis
About 15% of those with multiple sclerosis harbor a subtype known as primary progressive, which results in a slow and steady progression. The FDA recently approved a monoclonal antibody as the first treatment for this subtype.
1. New thalassemia treatments
More than 330,000 children worldwide are born with hemoglobinopathies—including more than 100,000 Americans born with sickle cell disease. New research may help patients produce functional hemoglobin molecules, decreasing counts of sickled/ineffective red blood cells in sickle cell disease and other forms of thalassemia.
Just like any other viral story, momentum dropped off. However, we were reminded again of the challenge in 2016, when it was revealed that thanks in part to critical funding, scientists had discovered the gene NEK1, one of the most common genes that contributes to the disease.
Just this year, it was announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved a new drug to treat ALS, bringing the total number of drugs suitable for treatment to two.
This new treatment, called Radicava, was the first approved treatment in 22 years – a tremendous breakthrough for this crippling disease.
A clinical trial took place in Japan and South Korea. Subjects who received Radicava experienced a “33 per cent reduction in the decline of their physical abilities” compared to subjects who received a placebo.
Year discovered: 1928
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, and have been developed over time to treat a number of diseases.
Penicillin is perhaps one of the best-known antibiotics.
The discovery of antibiotics was an accident, when Professor Alexander Fleming, while cleaning his laboratory, discovered a dish of bacteria. On the dish was a ring of mould, and the immediate surrounds of that ring were free from bacteria.
He concluded that this penicillium mould had prevented the growth of the staphylococci.
It wasn’t until years later that penicillin was first isolated.
Trevor Stone, DSc, head of pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, says that without penicillin, “75 per cent of the people now alive would not be alive because their parents and grandparents would have succumbed to infections.” He calls the effects of penicillin “mind-boggling”.
Year discovered: 1982
It is estimated 10-15 percent of the sufferers of diabetes are insulin-dependent. It occurs in children and adults up to the age of about 40 but unfortunately there is an increasing number of children under five diagnosed.
It is caused by a person’s immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas which means glucose levels rise.
Treatment with synthetic and animal insulin injections is required for survival as there is not yet a cure. Without this discovery, millions would have died.
Oral-based birth control pills
Year discovered: 1950; approved by FDA in 1960
Thanks to birth control, 100 million women all over the world can control their bodies by supressing ovulation.
When taken correctly, the pill can be 99.9% effective, making it one of the most effective types of birth control methods.
While the pill wasn’t discovered until the 50s, Austrian scientist Ludwig Haberlandt carried out a variety of experiments testing hormone manipulation in the 1920s.
In addition to birth control, the pill can also help manage some types of medical conditions, including:
Severe menstrual cramps
Year discovered: 1953
There are two vaccines that have successfully treated polio.
Astonishingly, these vaccinations have whittled the number of cases each year from 350,000 in 1988 to just 37 in 2016.
Children aged under five are most at risk of developing polio, but the polio vaccine can protect a child for life.
The end of polio is nigh, according to the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan: polio may be eradicated by 2018!
Year discovered: 1796
Thanks to an astounding vaccination program led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), smallpox was eradicated. The last known case of smallpox was in 1977 in Somalia.
It has been estimated anywhere up to 500 million deaths were caused by smallpox with and even in the 18th century, every 10th child born in Sweden and France died from smallpox.
Small quantities of smallpox exist for medical purposes in research labs in Atlanta, Georgia and Russia.
Year discovered: 1897; distributed in 1899
Aspirin has been providing pain and headache relief for more than 100 years.
Aspirin treats pain, fever, inflammation and prevents heart attacks. It’s also used during treatment for those who have suffered heart attacks.
Once sold as powder, aspirin tablets were first made in 1915.
Can aspirin lower the risk of cancer?
Yes, according to some studies. It found that regularly taking aspirin could lower the risks of certain types of cancer, including: