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Medical Researchers See Growth in People Suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease: More Than 200 Million Now Suffering from This Disease Worldwide

More than 200 million people worldwide suffer from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) according to data published in the August issue of the The Lancet. Moreover, the number of those ailing from this disease has increased by 25% over the past 10 years, the review finds. Lower extremity peripheral artery disease is the third leading cause of atherosclerotic cardiovascular morbidity, following coronary artery disease and stroke. The researchers emphasized the global nature of the problem.

The review published in The Lancet covers more than 100 studies in 34 countries. It indicates that in the year 2000 approximately 164 million people were suffering from serious blood-flow problems in the legs. By 2010 the number of patients with such a diagnosis had increased to 202 million. The researchers note that the disease is particularly widespread among middle-aged people.

As a rule, the disruption of blood flow stems from the narrowing and blockage of blood vessels, which is most commonly associated with myocardial infarction (heart attacks). As this process of blood vessel blockage is a something that takes places throughout the body (i.e. it is a general ailment), patients with ischemia in the lower limbs are three time more likely than others to suffer from a heart attack. Some of the risk factors highlighted include smoking, diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

“This is a global problem of the 21st century,” said University of Edinburgh Professor Gerald R. Fowkes, who was the lead researcher for the study. “The sharp rise in Peripheral Artery Disease is a serious health problem, as it means lower mobility, worsening of the quality of life and a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. National health authorities need to immediately pay attention to this issue and possible solutions.”

When this disease reaches its most acute form, Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI), 25% of patients are faced the prospect of amputation. The main focus on treatment of PAD is the improvement of blood circulation. Some of the effective methods include bypass surgery, which entails an open surgery, and endovascular and intravascular stenting, which is performed without anesthetics and incisions and entails puncturing of the affected artery with minimal loss of blood.

In order to lower the number of patients incapacitated by PAD and CLI, specialists are advocating the broader application of modern noninvasive technologies for treatment of vascular diseases, including conservative therapy using gene-based technologies stimulating the formation and growth of new collateral blood vessels. This action mechanism is called therapeutic angiogenesis. The emergence of this approach in medical practice has become such a significant event in the world of medical science that the March 2012 issue of Nature dedicated an article to the development of gene-therapy for PAD and, in particular, the first-in-class drug Neovasculgen®, developed by the Human Stem Cells Institute.

“Ischemia of the lower limbs, just as ischemic heart disease, is a socially significant disease. This is why dozens of companies around the world are working to develop drugs to treat ischemia through therapeutic angiogenesis,” comments Artur Isaev, General Director of HSCI. “Many are engaged in research but few are actually introducing new drugs into medical practice. The Russian-made Neovasculgen is the first drug to have undergone all of the necessary clinical trials, to have demonstrated its effectiveness and safety, and to be authorized for use. The fact that our innovative drug became a ‘first-in-class’ medicine says a lot. I believe that despite all of complications and despite the fact that the development of the biotechnology sector in our country is just getting started, in Russia we have real opportunities for biotechnology companies and we can become one of the leaders in this sector. We have already received marketing authorization for the drug in Russia and Ukraine. Now we face the difficult task of ensuring that this innovative drug becomes available to all patients who need it in Russia and Ukraine. We also plan to introduce this drug to the markets of the United States, China and other countries.”

16 August 2013