Between 2009 and 2013, 48 new cancer drugs were approved by the European Medicines Agency, but the effectiveness of those newly introduced drugs has been closely monitored since they populated the market. To say the results are not promising would be an understatement.
Most of the ones that have arrived on the market have effects that are dubious or absolutely non existent with regards to the reduction of cancer and wellbeing of patients, The Guardian reports.. This is according to the British Medical Journal study which was looking at the clinical trials associated with the drugs.
At the time the ineffective drugs came out in the market, there was basically no conclusive evidence that they improved patient survival. This goes for almost two-thirds of all drugs that were approved by the EMA.
In fact, just around 10% of them actually showed an improvement in the quality of life. Overall 57% of uses showed no benefits for either survival or quality of life. The team behind the study continued observing the effects over time, to see if there are any improvements.
Huseyin Naci, assistant professor of health policy at the London School of Economics, and a co-author of the study, said about the BMJ study: “We wanted to see once [the drugs] were already on the market did they actually generate some evidence to show that they improved or extended life?”
The team found that after a follow-up period of between three to eight years, 49% of approved uses were linked to no clear sign of improvement in survival or quality of life. Where survival benefits were shown, the team said these were clinically meaningless in almost half of the cases.
The parameters that the researchers were observing when measuring their drug’s effectiveness, it turns out, has nothing to do with the bottom line effects that are actually what patients care about: survival and quality of life. In the words of as. prof. Naci:
“What we find very surprising is that not very many studies are looking at overall survival or quality of life as their [primary] objective.”
Most of the studies, he points out, did deal with indirect measures, such as x-rays or laboratory tests that were assumed to offer clues as to a drug’s survival benefits. But no direct effects were observed, which is something that patients are often not aware of when being introduced to new drugs.
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, warned that the study did not necessarily reflect the situation in the UK where Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) played an important role in deciding which drugs were available to patients.