California's biopharmaceutical companies are working on nearly one-fifth of new medicines being developed for heart disease and stroke, according to a new report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The report shows California companies are developing 55 of 299 new medications for cardiovascular disease.

"Since 1900, heart disease has topped the list of killer diseases every year but one - 1918 - and stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America," PhRMA Deputy Vice President Karl Uhlendorf said today. "In California, according to the state's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program, heart disease and stroke are the number one and three causes of death, and a leading cause of disability. Californians can take heart in knowing that new hope is on the horizon and much of it stems from the innovation of biopharmaceutical companies located throughout the state."

New medicines offer the potential for not only improved health, but also lower health care costs. And, in California, there is a strong need for relief from the burdensome expenses of heart disease. Average health care spending for cardiovascular patients is nearly six times the average for all patients in the state, according to "Chronic Diseases in California: Facts and Figures," a recent report by the California Health Care Foundation.

And adding to the cost is the fact that 57 percent of state residents over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Biopharmaceutical research companies, including California's firms, are developing 27 new medicines for hypertension. The new PhRMA report shows companies headquartered in the state that are working on blood pressure medications include Actelion Pharmaceuticals US (South San Francisco), Arete Therapeutics (Hayward), Ligand Pharmaceuticals (La Jolla) and Biomarin Pharmaceutical Inc. (Novato).

California biopharmaceutical companies, including Amgen (Thousand Oaks), Theregen (San Francisco), Neurocrine Biosciences (San Diego) and Advanced Cell Technology (Santa Monica), are also targeting congestive heart failure.

Many of the medicines being developed for heart disease and stroke are cutting-edge biotechnology treatments, including human stem cells that restore cardiac function by forming new heart muscle and a gene therapy that uses a patient's own cells to treat heart failure.

On average, it costs $1.3 billion and takes 10 to 15 years to create one new medicine. In 2009 alone, America's biopharmaceutical research companies invested $65.3 billion in research and development.

And despite the continuing toll of heart disease and stroke, significant progress has been made, thanks in large part to new medicines. In 2008, stroke dropped to being the fourth leading cause of death nationwide after being third for more than 50 years. And according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, if death rates were the same as those of 30 years ago, 815,000 more Americans would die of heart disease annually and 250,000 more would die of stroke.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

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