The new fight against the No 1. cause of death globally: cardiovascular disease


Laura Drucker

Essential Insights contributor, healthcare writer

Featured experts

Shaden Marzouk, MD MBA

Chief Medical Officer, Cardinal Health

Ali Almedhychy, MD, PhD

Global Medical Director, Cordis, a Cardinal Health Company


In May, more than 1,000 healthcare leaders from around the globe gathered at the World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston to discuss cutting-edge advancements in the fight against cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death globally. Experts spoke about the evolving nature of cardiovascular care and the new technologies, medicines, and paradigms governing the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term approach to managing diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Their insights represent a larger conversation taking place worldwide about providing better and more efficient care that offers patients less trauma and a greater chance at not just survival, but a good quality of life.

Shaden Marzouk, MD, MBA, is chief medical officer of Cardinal Health and participated in the World Medical Innovation Forum's panel on challenges and breakthroughs in the treatment of peripheral artery disease. Ali Almedhychy, MD, PhD, is an interventional cardiologist and global medical director of Cordis, a Cardinal Health company that develops and manufactures interventional vascular technology. Here, Drs. Marzouk and Almedhychy speak with Essential Insights contributor Laura Drucker about emerging approaches to cardiovascular disease treatment.

Drucker: The World Medical Innovation Forum brought together healthcare leaders to talk about innovations in cardiovascular treatment and care. What emerging or existing breakthroughs do you consider to be particularly promising?

Dr. Almedhychy: There are new approaches to the treatment of cardiovascular disease that are focused on reducing in-hospital complications and shortening the length of stay. A hospital stay is not a pleasant experience for the patient, and the longer the patient stays, the more costs are incurred to the system. However, technology can help enable faster discharge. Being an interventional cardiologist, the first thing that comes to mind is the cardiac catheterization procedures used to diagnose and treat vascular disease. These procedures use an approach where a catheter is inserted through the skin, but then the challenge is to close that hole. Closure devices, namely technologies that immediately or instantly close the hole in the artery and enable faster recovery, are helping to solve this challenge.

17.5 million

people die each year from cardiovascular diseases, an estimated 31% of all deaths worldwide.

(Source:World Health Organization)

Drucker: A major area of focus has been on less invasive treatments. What are some innovations in minimally invasive devices, procedures and therapies, and what are the benefits in terms of patient care?

Dr. Almedhychy: The miniaturization of catheters and implants and heart devices has enabled easier procedures and faster recoveries. Additionally, the technological advances in the shaping of material and in the ability to design and iterate faster using computers and advanced algorithms has enabled us to treat larger entities in the heart, such as the valves, and do corrective surgeries from within the vessel. We also are benefitting from innovation on the pharmaceutical side, through the introduction of new drugs and drug classes.

Drucker: Can you share more about advancements in medicines?

Dr. Almedhychy: The treatment of cardiovascular disease involves not only correcting the structures of the cardiovascular system, but also treatment on the molecular side, and that's where pharmaceutical advances are important. Specifically, we are looking to improve patients' risk factors. We need anti-hypertensives, lipid-lowering drugs, and medications that protect the cardiovascular system from these very general diseases.

Drucker: Remote monitoring devices are allowing physicians to track their patients' adherence to treatment plans outside of clinical settings. Do you think these sorts of devices will become an increasingly important part of routine cardiac care?

Dr. Almedhychy: Absolutely. The advantage here from a medical perspective is these devices are more objective in the assessment of signals, so we have signal accuracy. We also have a quick flow of information that is unobstructed, enabling faster paths to decisions.

1 of every 3 deaths

in the U.S. are attributed to cardiovascular disease.

(Source: American Heart Association)

Drucker: One important theme of the World Medical Innovation Forum was increasing collaboration among researchers, payers and providers. How can these groups work together to improve the treatment and care of cardiovascular issues?

Dr. Marzouk: I think one way groups can work together is really taking a look at the patient from a multi-disciplinary focus, determining who's going to be the quarterback and shepherding the patient through all the services that he or she needs. You have a lot of different specialists, sites of care, and activities for the patient. This can be overwhelming. If all these stakeholders can work together and coordinate the patient's care, that delivers better outcomes for the patient and for health systems overall.

Drucker: Accessibility is obviously a major concern. How can stakeholders work together to make new treatments and medications widely available and affordable?

Dr. Marzouk: In order to get patients access to new technologies, or simply technologies that may not be new but are tried and true, one of the best things stakeholders can do is work together to generate the appropriate clinical and economic evidence to help practitioners and patients make evidence-based choices.

Drucker: Do you think we're heading toward a future where cardiovascular disease is no longer the number one killer of Americans?

Dr. Almedhychy: I truly think so. Therapies that we have developed are proven to be durable, therefore reducing the reoccurrence of cardiovascular disease in already treated patients.

Dr. Marzouk: I'd love to head toward that future, because there are certainly many ways heart disease can be preventable. I think we need to incentivize and empower patients in ways that help them take control of their diet, medication management, activity and appropriate follow-up care.

Global Hearts Initiative

An iniatitiative from the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve global heart health.

Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine

The American Heart Association (AHA) Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine is dedicated exclusively to advancing precision medicine in cardiovascular care.