A new drug may cure lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Developer InterMune reveals that the drug succeeded in significant clinical trials, leading many to believe that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also give the drug its approval. InterMune will officially submit a request to the FDA late this year. “The drug, pirfenidone, slowed the decline in lung function in patients with the disease,” The New York Times reports. Daniel G. Welch, the chief executive of InterMune, adds that the trial results “met or exceeded my expectations on every metric.”
IPF is often fatal. In fact, chief executive of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, Dr. Daniel M. Rose, reveals that IPF is “deadlier than 60 to 70 percent of malignancies.” The New York Times adds some troubling facts: “Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which has no known cause, affects about 70,000 Americans, according to InterMune, though the advocacy group estimates the number could be as high as 200,000. The disease kills many people within two to five years as progressive scarring of the lungs makes it impossible to breathe.” For now, steroids and off-label drugs are the most likely treatment.
Recent clinical trials for pirfenidone are not the only promising development. Medical News Today reports that more doctors are able to successfully diagnose IPF without high-risk lung biopsies. “Surgical lung biopsy is associated with substantial risks and many patients are too elderly, sick, and/or have comorbid conditions to tolerate the invasive procedure,” researcher Ganesh Raghu says. New, advanced medical technologies — specifically high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scans — enable doctors to diagnose patients confidently — and without putting their lives at risk.
At least 40,000 U.S. men and women die from IPF every year. Lung disease has also claimed many famous lives, including The Breakfast Club principal Paul Gleason and icon Steve McQueen. Many believe McQueen contracted pleural mesothelioma during his service as a U.S. Marine.
Although medical technology has come a long way, some still question whether it is enough. Recent U.K. research suggests that another lung disease — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — often goes undetected until it is too late.