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Pulmonary Hypertension: A rare opportunity to make a profound difference



Recently, we celebrated two years since the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) acquired Actelion, a bio-pharmaceutical innovator that spearheaded a treatment revolution for a rare cardio-pulmonary disease known as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

The financial community heralded this as J&J’s largest acquisition; for the Janssen team in Asia Pacific it represented an exciting opportunity to work alongside people who shared our commitment to “fighting sickness with science and improving access with ingenuity”.

Actelion brings global leadership in Pulmonary Hypertension, and a team driven by science to constantly strive for – and bring to market – innovative treatments that improve quality of life and increase life expectancy for people with the disease.

It has been an enlightening and rewarding journey to bring Actelion and Janssen together, with both teams benefiting from the experience and knowledge of the other, learning as we go and uniting around a common determination to deliver for patients, carers and clinicians.

Like many in our company, I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a unique and evolving area of medicine. At the same time, it has been confronting to discover the realities of a PAH diagnosis.

Alongside the Janssen Asia Pacific Leadership Team, I had the privilege of meeting two people with PAH from the one family. They described the devastating impact of the disease, not just on their own health but on their family and friends. We also had the opportunity to hear from a leading PAH specialist at the National University of Singapore who outlined recent treatment advances and the role our medicines are playing in enhancing life expectancy and quality of life for PAH patients. These were both truly inspiring meetings.

Let me share some facts about this condition and its impact I discovered during these meetings:*

  • PH is a form of high blood pressure that occurs in the lungs. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the lungs, eventually causing the heart muscle to weaken and fail.
  • PAH is a rare disease, estimated to affect up to 150 people in every million.
  • Most forms of PAH are considered idiopathic, meaning there’s no known cause; others are inherited, drug-induced or caused by a pre-existing condition, such as HIV, congenital heart disease or scleroderma.
  • It is more common in women than men. In fact, PH is most often diagnosed in women aged 30-60 years.
  • PAH is challenging to diagnose. As a rare disease, it’s not unusual for doctors to first test for asthma and congestive heart failure when patients present with symptoms (which include exhaustion and laboured breath).
  • While there is no cure, there are effective ways to slow disease progression and improve quality of life. On average, people used to live 2.5 years after diagnosis; now most treated patients live seven to 10 years, and some for up to 20 years.

Of course, behind these figures are real people with very real hopes and expectations. Charity Tillemann-Dick, despite a diagnosis of PAH and two double-lung transplants, was a world-class opera singer and passionate advocate. Sadly, Charity passed away earlier this year – reminding us that we have only taken the first step in combating this terrible disease.

I can assure you that Janssen is 100 per cent committed to this cause and will build on the incredible legacy Actelion has created. We stand ready to partner with the PH community at every opportunity and in every market in Asia Pacific.

Pulmonary hypertension may be a new area of focus for Janssen, but as we do in all areas of research and development, we will apply every ounce of effort to create a future where this disease is a thing of the past.

This is Our PH Promise!