Do you ever stop to think about the treatments you’re given when you’re sick? How about the treatments used for your loved ones who may be dealing with a chronic illness? These treatments didn’t just appear out of nowhere. There was careful research and studies done to make sure these methods were going to be effective. Then, these methods went through a strict approval process before they were released for use.
With that in mind, what is on the horizon for further treatments to come? Here, we’ll look at some of the top innovative treatments expected to reshape the medical industry this year. You’ll see what they are all about and where they are in the approval process with the U.S. FDA.
There may be a few treatments in here that you or a loved one could greatly benefit from, either now or sometime in the future.
Most Anticipated Treatments This Year
There were a number of medical innovations that were highly anticipated to alter health care this year, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While it’s a little soon to see the impact they’ve had, we can do a simple review of what is expected from these new medical innovations and what their status is—were they approved by the FDA, altered in any way, etc.
1. Ibrutinib for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). CLL causes 4,400 American deaths a year. This oral pill, ibrutinib, is expected to help treat this disease. It would target the malignant cells and spare the patient’s immune system—contrary to the current treatment used, which can sometimes cause death in older patients. The trials for it have been promising. Studies have found an increase in survival rate with the use of ibrutinib.
Status: Ibrutinib was approved by the U.S. FDA in February 2014 for patients with CLL who have received at least one previous treatment.
2. The Bionic Eye. Individuals who have late-stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP) are often considered legally blind by the time they’re 40. RP affects 100,000 Americans. This latest technology—the bionic eye—will be able to help them. It does not completely restore eyesight, but it will allow people with this condition the ability to decipher light and dark around them and help them recognize where people and objects are.
Status: The bionic eye was approved by the FDA in early 2013 and was successfully transplanted into two patients in January of this year.
3. Genomic-Based Tests for Cancer Management. With the approval of the genomic-based tests, doctors would be able to analyze the genes of a patient’s tumor. They could, furthermore, predict how aggressive the cancer is and what treatment path is necessary for that patient. This would greatly improve how cancer is treated in patients. Doctors would know when a more aggressive treatment is needed for patients with cancerous tumors and when it isn’t. Genomic-based tests have the potential for saving many lives. A similar test has already been established and approved for prostate cancer, but these tests would improve the management of colorectal and breast cancers.
Status: Genomic-based tests for cancer management was approved by the FDA in 2013.
4. NeuroPace RNS System for Seizures. Those who live with intractable epilepsy, and the seizures that come with it, may soon find some relief. The NeuroPace RNS System is implanted into the patient’s brain and can detect an impending seizure. When an impending seizure is detected, it will deliver a short, electrical pulse that will interrupt the seizure before symptoms appear.
Status: The NeuroPace RNS System was approved by the FDA in November of 2013.
5. Personal Sedation Station. Healthcare professionals and anesthesiologists, specifically, can deliver light sedation that’s needed in life-saving colonoscopies with the help of this new device. Furthermore, the sedation station could potentially bring down the cost of anesthesia for this procedure by a billion dollars per year.
Status: The personalized sedation station was approved in May of 2013 and is expected to be put into use this year (2014).
6. Sofosbuvir for Hepatitis C. Sofosbuvir—the first all-oral therapy for Hepatitis C—is expected to reduce the length of treatment for Hepatitis C and have fewer side effects. It will make treatment of Hepatitis C much easier on patients. What normally took up to 48 weeks and required injections can now be taken orally through sofosbuvir and reduce treatment to 12 weeks.
Status: Sofosbuvir was approved in December of 2013.
7. New Management System for Anesthesia.
This new system will be able to help nurses, anesthesiologists, surgeons and others make wiser decisions in the operating room. It can record the entire surgery—before, during and after—and alert the medical professionals in the operating room of potential problems.
Status: The Perioperative Decision Support System has not yet received approval from the FDA.
8. TMAO Screening Tool for Heart Risk. Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is produced by the body when choline is digested by your gut bacteria. Researchers have recently discovered that TMAO can be used as a screening tool to predict any future risk of heart attack, stroke and death. With this technology, doctors may be able to personalize diets for patients to help prevent heart disease based on the discoveries this screening will give.
Status: The FDA has not yet given approval for this method. However, for some, waiting for approval is not stopping them. Dr. Hazen, for instance, from the Cleveland Clinic, has already begun brainstorming with his team what consumer products they could develop that would help reduce TMAO levels in their patients and stop the progression of heart disease.
9. Fecal Microbiota Transplantation. A new method for fighting infections in diseases has been a bit controversial over the past few years. A fecal microbiota transplantation is done by a doctor who transfers a liquid suspension that is formed from a healthy individual’s fecal matter and put into a sick person’s colon. This method hopes to restore balance to a sick patient’s colon and help them fight infections and diseases.
The clinical studies have been positive, but not everyone is convinced of this method.
Status: The fecal microbiota transplantation was approved by the FDA in May of 2013, but with strict guidelines. It has since undergone several changes and alterations by the FDA to better regulate this method. See a more detailed explanation of this ruling here.
10. Serelaxin for Acute Heart Failure. Roughly 55,000 deaths per year in the United States are caused by heart failure. This human hormone was given “breakthrough” status by the FDA in 2013. A study done on this treatment found a 38-percent reduction in death rates in patients who had acute heart failure (after a six-month period) compared to those who went through standard therapy. Serelaxin has been found to increase blood flow throughout one’s body, which can help a poorly functioning heart to work more effectively.
Status: In March of 2014, the serelaxin injection for patients who had acute heart failure was not approved by one of the FDA advisory committees. They did not believe there was enough evidence of its benefit to approve its release. However, they are optimistic about its prospects as it is studied more.
Treatments that Are Still to Come
There have been several more innovative treatments that have been announced this year and are on the horizon. You may have heard talk of them, but here are a few innovations that could be headed our way:
We continue to make good progress toward treating the diseases that ail us. Even those treatments that weren’t approved this year show promise that we’re getting close. It’s only a matter of time, through more trial and error, that we’ll finally find what we’re looking for to beat some of these diseases.