Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurological disease and also termed as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The disease affects the motor neurons, which control the action of voluntary muscles, as a result the messages between brain and muscle fibers are blocked. ALS could occur in a person due to genetic inheritance, mutation in gene which encodes enzyme copper-zinc superoxide dismutase coupled with defect in chromosome 9. This disease is more prevalent in males. All these abnormalities results in the release of glutamate which damage the motor neurons controlling voluntary muscles. ALS projects various symptoms such as spasticity, cramps, fasciculation, respiratory problems and muscles weakness. The mortality rate has been studied to be higher in the ALS patients mainly due to respiratory failures. ALS results in the inability to breathe; this is due to non- functioning of diaphragram and chest muscles caused due to muscle weakness It has been estimated that every year around 5,000 people in U.S. are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is diagnosed with electromyography (EMG) test which detect electrical activities of muscles. In addition, ALS can also be diagnosed through nerve conduction study (NCS) test. This test measures electrical energy used to send a signal by neurons. The ALS detection only by symptoms is difficult since various other diseases such as spinal cord tumor, syringomelia, cervical spondylosis and herniated neck disc. Succeeding diagnosis, physicians prescribe various treatment options such as physical, speech, occupational, chemotherapy and other therapies. Chemotherapy includes only one drug which is riluzole and is the only drug approved by FDA. Riluzole reduces motor neuron damage by decreasing the release of glutamate. Other treatments which can be given to an ALS patient include muscle relaxants, ventilators and drugs which would reduce fatigue, excessive salivation and control spasticity. These drugs would only improve the quality of life of ALS patient.
The age groups of 55 to 66 are highly prone to ALS due to weak immune system. Rise in aging population worldwide would augment the growth of this market. In addition, the government is also concerned for the various treatment options of ALS. Recently in 2008, Collaborative ALS Drug Discovery Initiative (CADDI) helped to initiate and accelerate the new drug development and effective treatment of ALS. This initiative increased the number of ALS treating pipeline drugs. Despite all these, various factors such as high cost of treatment, unawareness about the disease and availability of ineffective diagnosis methods would hinder the growth of this market.
Some of the major market players in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis market include Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, Avicena Inc., Sanofi Inc., Biogen Inc. and others.
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