Has a member of your family been vaccinated against hepatitis B, either separately or as part of an infant or childhood vaccination regimen? If so, you have biotechnology to thank for protection against this sometimes fatal disease that attacks millions of people each year. Because the vaccine prevents infectionrelated liver damage that can result in liver cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls this “the first anti-cancer vaccine.”
Do you know someone who has diabetes? Before 1982, there were few options for insulin-dependent diabetics who were allergic to animalderived insulin. That year, a human version of the drug entered the market — the first ever biotechnology medicine to be commercialized. Recombinant insulin is still saving lives today, and the next few years may bring inhaled forms of insulin and other new diabetes drugs that reduce the devastating impact of this disease.
Has anyone in your family had heart disease? Heart disease is still the number one killer of adults, but its toll is dropping. From 1990 to 2000, the U.S. death rate from coronary heart disease dropped 25 percent, due in part to the introduction, beginning in 1987, of new biotechnology-based “clot buster” drugs, which allow emergency room doctors to dissolve blockages during heart attacks. The first drug approved in this class is now used to treat a stroke in progress. The result is that a significant percentage of the 600,000 victims of stroke each year may have reduced permanent disability if this treatment is received quickly.
If a member of your family is diagnosed with breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma or another cancer, it will help you to know that biotechnology has developed therapies over the past 20 years that are working wonders. A growing percentage of cancer patients survive and return to good health thanks to these breakthroughs.
Some diseases are more likely to strike the women in your family. Rheumatoid arthritis is a good example. The disease affects two million people — mostly women — often during early or middle adulthood. Today, biotechnology drugs that slow the painful joint-destroying progression of the disease are helping tens of thousands of women with RA to maintain active lives.