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Medical Breakthroughs … That We Lost

Diseases with a cure that we just don’t use

June 2023

Script

What’s the one thing worse than a disease with no cure? A disease with a cure … that we just don’t use.

That’s what happened with Lyme disease.

It’s estimated that nearly half a million Americans contract the tick-borne condition each year,i which causes everything from fever and rash to facial palsy and arthritis.ii

Here’s the thing: The FDA approved a Lyme vaccine 25 years ago, but the manufacturer pulled it from shelves quickly thereafter (despite the fact that it worked).iii

Because Lyme was less widespread at the time, the market for the vaccine was small and patients were less inclined to take the required three doses over the course of 12 months.

One other problem: Critics and the media suggested the vaccine caused arthritis, leading to lawsuits.iv

Research found no evidence for that claim, but the drug was pulled from the market amid falling sales. As a result, Americans can’t currently get a Lyme vaccine … but their dogs can.v

Another lost innovation: In 1989, the FDA approved Toradol, a drug that delivers the same pain relief as opioids, without any risk of addiction.

The FDA, however, suggested a higher dosage than manufacturers wanted, which led to deadly gastrointestinal bleeding in a number of patients.vi The dosage was corrected, and today doctors administer intravenous Toradol in hospitals.

But access to Toradol in pill form is heavily restricted, despite being non-addictive, even as Americans struggle to fight an opioid crisis that killed over 80,000 people in 2021.vii

America is second to none when it comes to medical innovation — but we could use a little work on getting those cures to the people who need them.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. The U.S. approved a Lyme disease vaccine in 1998 — but it was pulled from the market after unfounded fears that it caused arthritis.
  2. A non-addictive alternative to opioids has been approved in the U.S. since 1989 — but most patients aren’t able to access it in pill form.
  3. Americans don’t currently have access to a Lyme disease vaccine — but their dogs do.

Sources

  1. How Many People Get Lyme Disease? — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. "Lyme Disease Is on the Rise. Why Is There Still No Vaccine?" (Patrick Boyle) — Association of American Medical Colleges
  4. "The Incredibly Frustrating Reason There’s No Lyme Disease Vaccine" (Brian Resnick) — Vox
  5. Ibid.
  6. "How the FDA Helped Fuel the Opioid Epidemic" (Charles L. Hooper) — Wall Street Journal
  7. Drug Overdose Death Rates — National Institutes of Health

Shownotes

SOUND: “The Search” by Northern Points (Premium Beat)

FOOTAGE:  Yana Tatevosian / 500px (Getty) / Hailshadow (Getty) // CITED SOURCES AND NEWS OUTLETS ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND HAVE NOT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED ANY PORTION OF THIS PRODUCTION.

Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    How Many People Get Lyme Disease?
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease
  3. Association of American Medical Colleges
    "Lyme Disease Is on the Rise. Why Is There Still No Vaccine?" (Patrick Boyle)
  4. Vox
    "The Incredibly Frustrating Reason There’s No Lyme Disease Vaccine" (Brian Resnick)
  5. Wall Street Journal
    "How the FDA Helped Fuel the Opioid Epidemic" (Charles L. Hooper)
  6. National Institutes of Health
    Drug Overdose Death Rates

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