How big is big: The economic burden of disease

By Pekka Simula 26 April 2019

The global direct healthcare costs are approaching $10 trillion.

What does that signify? The human mind is not designed to digest enormous figures. You can articulate ‘trillion’ with the same ease as ‘billion’ or ‘million’. The words even almost sound the same. So, when I recently presented our drug development programs, I decided to give a concrete example rather than just figures to elucidate the potential significance of our work. And what could be more concrete than the much-debated, massively-budgeted wall on the southern border of the USA.

One of our drug candidates, CDNF, aims at stopping the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a brain disease that could affect anyone. It is associated with an economic burden of $50 billion every year including direct and indirect costs. The wall between USA and Mexico has been estimated to cost $25 billion. So, the costs associated with Parkinson’s would build two walls every year, or eight walls during Trump’s presidency (16 assuming re-election).

Based on its mechanism-of-action, CDNF has further potential also in Alzheimer’s disease. And though Parkinson’s is a huge societal burden it is nothing compared to Alzheimer’s. The costs associated with Alzheimer’s are approaching one trillion dollars every single year. The US-Mexico wall would be built with a week’s worth of Alzheimer’s!

Now, at Herantis we have spent some $20-30 million to bring our innovative drug candidate CDNF in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Based on preclinical results CDNF could even stop the progression of Parkinson’s; and based on its mechanisms it has further potential in other neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s. Even if this project failed, which is not uncommon in drug development, it would have produced a huge amount of scientific data for the benefit of subsequent projects.

Alternatively, that same amount of money could have built a 2-mile wall. Enough to protect New Yorkers from the squirrels and raccoons of Central Park (but only on either Eastern or Western side). I personally think we have spent the money more wisely.

Herantis Pharma develops drugs that are based on groundbreaking scientific research, including CDNF for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and Lymfactin for the treatment of lymphedema (LE).

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