As we enter the new decade, let’s do a retrospective and take a look at the advances of the last decade that got us to where we are now. While some things still haven’t changed, such as the pharmaceutical industry’s propensity for price gouging, we have come a long way in terms of medical progress in the 2010s. New medicines and therapies came into existence, being realized from dreams, benefitting people’s lives and lining the pockets of investors with profits. If it weren’t for the advancements of the 2010s, we wouldn’t be able to look so far ahead into the future in 2020.
The first cell therapy treatments were approved in the united states in 2017. To create these living drugs, biomedical engineers collect immune cells from patients, modify them to hunt tumors, allow the cells to proliferate, and then reinfuse them. Two of the approved treatments so far have been able to treat blood cancers. Despite its effectiveness, it’s important to bear in mind that this technology is still in its early stages and is being hindered by a few factors. The first includes significant side effects, and the second involves a highly expensive and time-consuming manufacturing process. As a result, the treatment is costly and is reserved for very ill patients. This has, however, paved the way for more options. Scientists are hoping to improve the side effects and create more accessible treatments. In the future, this may lead to therapies that can target solid tumors.
The first gene therapy treatments came in Europe in the nineties, but the 2010s is when the treatments really took off. This method replaces faulty DNA to cure genetic diseases and can do so with as few as one treatment, thus replacing years of expensive alternative treatment. With great potential comes an equally great price tag, with one of the approved treatments in the U.S. costing upwards of $2.1 million. In the long run, though, we hope that developments in gene therapy will continue to save both lives and money.
Curing Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a condition that causes chronic liver damage, sometimes leading to transplants or cancer. Sovaldi, produced by Gilead and approved in 2013, and its successors made the condition curable in the span of weeks. In the above breakthroughs, I mentioned the steep costs associated with the treatments, and the remarkable thing here is that not only did it cure something that was once a death sentence, it’s also become a lot more affordable. The competition on the market has helped to drive the cost of the drugs down. From the perspective of public health and economics, this may just be the biggest breakthrough on the list.