Diagnosis is often delayed – women can suffer up to six to ten years before learning what is causing their symptoms and may require a surgical procedure. Currently there are no widely accepted biomarkers for endometriosis and physicians have limited options to offer patients for the long-term medical management of endometriosis-associated pain. Treatment options include oral contraceptives, pain medications (from NSAIDs to opioids), hormonal therapies, and GnRH agonists, many of which are not specifically indicated to treat endometriosis. Women may also endure repetitive and costly surgical procedures for symptom relief, which may not be curative.
Endometriosis has not seen meaningful innovation in decades, but the pharmaceutical industry is making great strides to help this underserved population of women. While there are many theories as to the etiology of endometriosis, we still don’t know definitively why it develops. Biopharmaceutical researchers are leading the charge to better understand the mechanisms of endometriosis so that improved interventions can be developed.
Several treatment options for the management of endometriosis-associated pain are in late-stage clinical trials and data suggests these treatments could reduce the daily menstrual and non-menstrual pelvic pain associated with endometriosis.
In addition to discovering new treatment options, the biopharma industry is collaborating with scientists and academia to develop alternative approaches to diagnosis. I look forward to a day when women with endometriosis can be diagnosed definitively with a clinical history and examination in combination with a simple blood test, avoiding the need for invasive procedures or empiric treatment.
As a physician in the biopharmaceutical industry, I have had the opportunity to work on multiple projects that targeted improving the symptoms of patients with diseases for which optimal therapies were not available. The common thread is that all were aimed at developing therapies that could have remarkable impact on the lives of patients with diseases with significant unmet needs. Women with endometriosis endure years of suffering and are faced with suboptimal therapeutic choices. It is gratifying to know that in my role leading a clinical research development team, I play a part in finding a way to improve their discomfort with a well-studied alternative. I am also proud to be part of an industry seeking solutions that can help women with endometriosis find relief and an improved quality of life.
Dawn Carlson, M.D., M.P.H., is the Vice President of General Medicine Development at AbbVie. Previously, she held various roles at AbbVie and led oncology, Humira rheumatology and dermatology development teams.