At Least One Long Island Assemblyman Sees BioTech As A Potential Cure For Island's Economic Ills
Tom Alfano Joins Women's Health Advocates in Announcing Cancer Drug Therapies at Cold Spring Harbor Lab
Long Islanders were the first in the nation to receive a new report today from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) on a record 969 medicines in the research pipeline for disease that disproportionately affected women. The medicines are awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or are in human clinical trials. The announcement at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was attended by Assemblyman Tom Alfano, a strong supporter in Science Research Initiatives in the State and in local High Schools. Joining Alfano at the announcement were Tony and Oscar Award winning actress Marcia Gay Harden, Pop Singing Star Deborah Gibson, Senator John Flanagan, Geri Barash of 1 in 9, and Assemblymembers Tom McKevitt and Dave McDonough. Doctors, Scientists and researchers shared their findings in the report and answered questions for the press and women’s health care advocates.
"This was a big day for Long Island and our State," said Assemblyman Tom Alfano noting, "finding different drug therapies and medicines to combat cancer and illnesses must be a priority in science today. Today, this report takes a giant step forward in bringing science and industry together to help those who are sick and suffering." Alfano was invited to the announcement due to his work in encouraging and supporting science research programs in local high schools and New York State. Locally, Elmont Memorial High School recently boasted an Intel Science Research Semi-Finalist in Winston Waters II. Other students from the school have captured several awards and honors from Science Symposia and competitions throughout New York State. Alfano’s work with the program has been through grant funding he has channeled to the program over the past 4 years.
The main thrust of the conference was the release of the 2009 Women's Health Report. The report centered on medicines and vaccines in development for women. Specifically, research is being conducted on Athritis, Autoimmune, Cancer, Diabetes, Eye, Gastrointestinal, Kidney/Urologic, Lung/Respiratory, Neurologic, Obstetric, Psychiatric, Sepsis and Gynecologic health issues.
“We are releasing this report on Long Island because that status of women’s health here in many ways reflects the situation nationwide,” said PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken
Johnson. Johnson served as Senior Advisor to the Chair of the US House of Representatives 9-11 commission. He also served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that investigated ENRON, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Qwest and human cloning.
Both on Long Island and nationwide, for example, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women, breast cancer affects one in eight women, and depression and anxiety affect
more women than men. To help raise awareness of breast cancer, the release of Medicines in Development Women 2009 coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Sixteen of the medicines in the report are being developed by companies with a presence
on Long Island. These include potential treatments for breast cancer, gynecological cancer,
depression, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Asthma. In addition, nearly 4,000
clinical trials conducted on Long Island are listed on the U.S. government’s clinical trials
Web site http://www.clinicaltrials.org/, accounting for over a third of the 10,255 clinical trials
conducted in the entire state of New York.
The report lists a total of 969 new medicines in development, including 86 new treatments for obstetric/gynecologic conditions; 76 for asthma; 114 for autoimmune diseases, which strike women three times more than men in the U.S.; 155 for diabetes, which affects 11
million American women; 80 for Alzheimer’s disease; and, 131 for arthritis, which affects
41 million women nationwide----including 28.6 percent of women in Suffolk county, and
30.8 percent in Nassau County.
One medicine in the report is a potential cutting-edge treatment that attacks the cause of
Alzheimer’s disease rather than merely treating its symptoms. Currently, treatment
options for Alzheimer’s disease are limited. This groundbreaking medicine holds the
potential to slow the progression of the disease and could vastly improve quality of life for
Alzheimer’s patients. Women account for 70 percent of Alzheimer’s deaths.
During the press briefing, Academy Award-and Tony-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden and American pop icon Deborah Gibson described the personal experiences that led them to advocate for women’s health issues.
Harden was inspired to become an advocate while preparing for the role of a woman with
breast cancer in the film Rails and Ties. “My character had Stage Four breast cancer and
a mastectomy, so as part of researching my role we brought a group of breast cancer
survivors to the set,” explained Harden. “Meeting these women was transformative for
me and helped me realize what a problem breast cancer is. I welcome the chance to raise
awareness about it.”
Gibson, who had a No. 1 hit song at 16 years of age, explained that it was the stressful
experience of being a child celebrity that led to her battle with anxiety and depression.
“You see a lot of professional children who grow up to have problems, because fame is not
a natural thing we’re wired to know as kids how to handle,” said Gibson. “Once I was
able too to acknowledge my anxiety and depression, I was able to get help through therapy
Alfano discussed with Deborah Gibson her experiences with anxiety and depression during the event. "Here is woman who on the surface had it all. When you got past the concerts and publicity events, she was struggling to get through the day. Therapies like the ones discussed at this event helped Debbie Gibson and look at her today. She's a broadway star, actress and symbol for women to get help," said Alfano.
“We live in an era of medical discovery in which we understand more and more about the
unique and biological and behavioral differences between men and women and their
respective health care needs,” said PhRMA’s Johnson. “This knowledge is inspiring
a continuing medical revolution that is bringing new hope to women around the world in
the form of promising new treatments and cures.”
“We are pleased to participate in events that promote the development of new drugs that
will save women’s lives,” said Geri Barish, president of 1 in 9: Long Island Breast Cancer
Action Coalition. “With over 40,000 women still dying of breast cancer every year, it is
these new drugs that hold the promise to help eradicated breast cancer or at least relegate
it to a chronic condition. These new drugs promise us something we breast cancer
New York Biotechnology Association President Nathan Tinker discussed Long Island’s
role in developing new, life-saving medicines for women. “Long Island is contributing to
the incredible progress made by America’s Biotechnology and pharmaceutical research companies in developing new and more effective treatments for a wide range of diseases that affect women. The area has a number of educational facilities, research hospital, laboratories, and innovative biopharmaceutical companies that have proven critical to developing the new drugs that address the needs of women,” said Tinker.
“While scientists at America’s pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies are
making exciting progress in the research for new cures and treatments for breast cancer
and other diseases that affect women, these efforts are wasted if the medicines we develop
aren’t accessible to patients who need them,” said PhRMA’s Johnson.
Help is available to patients in need through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance
(PPA), a program sponsored by America’s pharmaceutical research companies. To date,
the PPA has helped nearly six million patients nationwide, including more than 193,000
people in New York State. Since its launch in April 2005, the PPA bus tour has visited
all 50 states and more than 3,000 cities to educated people about patient assistance
The “Help is Here Express" is staffed by trained specialists able to quickly help uninsured
and financially struggling patients access information on more than 475 patient assistance
programs, including nearly 200 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. When
the “Help is Here Express” moves on, patients can visit PPA’s easy to use Web site
(http://www.pparx.org/) or call the toll-free phone number (1-888-4PPA-NOW).
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the
country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are
devoted to inventing medicines that allows patients to live longer, healthier and more
productive lives. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures.
PhRMA members alone invested an estimated $50.3 billion in 2008 in discovering and
developing new medicines. Industry-wide research and investment reached a record
$65.2 billion in 2008.