Duke Medicine Profiles: Sudarshan Rajagopal, MD, PhD

Duke Medicine Profiles: Sudarshan Rajagopal, MD, PhD


My name’s Sudarshan Rajagopal and
I’m an adult cardiologist and I specialize in pulmonary hypertension. I’m a physician scientist, and around 75% of my time’s spent on basic
science research, and 25% is clinical. My basic science research focuses on
understanding how receptor signaling contributes to the development
of pulmonary hypertension. And specifically, we’re interested in understanding how we
could possibly generate better drugs that target specific signalling pathways
that are important in the disease. Pulmonary hypertension’s just a generic
term that means high blood pressure in the lungs, but there are a lot
of different causes for it. And those include problems in the heart
itself, problems in the lung, like COPD or interstitial lung disease,
blood clots in the lungs, or very rarely, a problem in the blood
vessels of the lungs itself. And that rare disease, pulmonary
arterial hypertension, it’s very rare, it’s only 15 to 25 per million people. We cover all of pulmonary hypertension,
but our real specialty’s in understanding that very small group, that rare disease,
because we have drugs that are specifically designed to treat those
patients, pulmonary evasive dilators. Duke has a lot of experience in
treating pulmonary hypertension, there’s been a center for pulmonary
vascular disease here for over 30 years. And to treat pulmonary hypertension,
you really need a team-based approach. You need physicians,
nurse practitioners, and people who can work
with your insurance and especially pharmacies to ensure that
people get their medications regularly. Getting medications can be difficult in
pulmonary hypertension because they’re so expensive. So the cheapest drugs we
use cost $10,000 a year, while the most expensive drugs
we use cost $150,000 a year. So it requires a lot,
there are a lot of hoops to jump through. And it’s helpful to have a team that
has the experience to deal with that.

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