New Cures For Old Ailments

Some of our most common chronic illnesses will get fresh therapies

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The era of blockbuster drugs may be fading, but that doesn't mean medical innovation is dead. Here are treatments coming this year:

A valve that can fix your heart

From Medtronic, this device replaces failing valves that could block blood flow in heart vessels, which would otherwise be fatal in half of patients with the condition. The CoreValve system has been tested in 50,000 patients outside the U.S.

Pills that stop Hep C

The first oral treatments for a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver in 3.2 million Americans, simeprevir and sofosbuvir were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October. The drugs, taken in combination with an existing therapy such as interferon or ribavirin, shorten treatment from one year to 12 weeks and can cure up to 80% of cases.

A vaccine for malaria

The European Medicines Agency and the FDA are reviewing data on Mosquirix, a vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) that is the first against a parasite and the first to protect against malaria, which affects 219 million people worldwide. The shot can lower risk of the deadly disease by 46% among children where the parasite is endemic.

A simpler diabetes treatment

Daily pills may become a thing of the past for Type 2 diabetics if GSK's albiglutide is approved. The once-a-week medication hampers the glucagon receptor and lowers glucose production by the liver. Similar drugs out now need to be taken up to twice a day.

A better breast-cancer drug

Herceptin and Tykerb already tackle the 30% of breast cancers that contain HER2 proteins, but many tumors become resistant to the drugs. Pfizer's forthcoming dacomitinib targets multiple forms of HER2, which could make resistance less likely.