New cancer drug benefit study sure to add to debate over drug prices
Drugmakers are already facing growing backlash to the perceived high prices of drugs, but a new study about the real benefits of cancer drugs is sure to add fuel to the fire. It says that follow-up studies of cancer drugs that won speedy approvals based on early results found most did not prolong or improve life in patients.
The study was of 18 cancer drugs approved by the FDA between 2008 and 2012. It found that of 13 where further studies were available, none of the drugs were determined to prolong life, and only one had enough evidence to say it improved quality of life.
Despite that, the study said the FDA rescinded only one approval for Genentech’s Avastin in treating breast cancer, although it is approved for use in other cancers.
“We were shocked to find that these drugs don’t save lives and don’t improve quality of lives,” lead author Diana Zuckerman told Reuters. Zuckerman is also president of the National Center for Health Research and the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund in Washington, D.C.
The study said that the FDA’s aim is to approve drugs that can improve survival or quality of life and that about a third of cancer drugs show a “demonstrated improvement in overall survival in randomized clinical trials.” But it said that the FDA also considers so-called “surrogate endpoints” for life threatening conditions with few alternative treatment options, things like how soon a cancer begins to progress after a drug has been started. The other two-thirds of approvals were based on these surrogate endpoints, the story said.