Viral diseases are an insidious and serious health hazard. Viruses are often not detected early enough, which allows them to spread uncontrolled. Their infinite adaptability also makes them hard to target and trap.
Influenza is a real challenge to our immune system
Every year flu viruses attack the immune systems of 100 million people in Europe, Japan and the USA alone. By mutating slightly every year, they make it difficult for our immune system to fight them off.
Due to the vast range in the number of deaths caused by influenza in any given season, it is very difficult to provide an accurate estimate of mortality rates
- The WHO currently states: “Worldwide, these annual epidemics result in about three to five million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths” (WHO seasonal influenza factsheet, April 2009, accessible here).
In a joint project, Roche and Gilead developed Tamiflu, a drug that attacks the flu virus and is now used throughout the world for the treatment and prevention of influenza.
Early detection of hepatitis increases the likelihood of cure
Hepatitis is a viral infection that can go undetected in the body for years. Left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and cancer. Detection and treatment are essential in the early stages when the likelihood of cure is relatively high. Tests that diagnose and monitor the virus in the blood and treatment with our biotech drug Pegasys have helped many of the people who have been infected. Unfortunately, not all patients respond equally well to this treatment. That’s why we’re working intensively on new strategies to provide effective treatment to more patients.
New mechanisms of action help those living with HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS remains incurable. But deaths from AIDS have declined dramatically in recent years. This is due in no small part to modern molecular diagnostics whose capacity for rapid, reliable and routine detection and monitoring of the virus and virus resistance enables patients’ treatment to be adjusted accordingly. We are proud to have developed two entirely new classes of effective drugs that represent major breakthroughs for HIV treatment and patients.