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More than half of the newly developed drugs for cancer are useless


Doctors are studying the effects of medication on people with cancer

There are a lot of different medications that are used to treat cancer. Researchers have now found that most cancer medications that have recently appeared on the market do little to improve the survival or well-being of patients with cancer.

The researchers from the London School of Economics and King’s College London found that many new types of cancer medication do not really increase well-being and that they hardly improve the likelihood of survival. This raises the question of how useful it really is for people with cancer to take such drugs. The doctors published the results of their study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In almost two thirds of the cases, no improvement was found

The European Medicines Agency approved a total of forty-four cancer drugs for therapeutic use in 68 different indications between 2009 and 2013. However, the results of the current study show that at the time of testing the new therapies, there was no conclusive evidence of an improvement in survival in almost two thirds of the indications.

Experts checked improvements in wellbeing and survival

The use of the medication also only improved the patient's quality of life in ten percent of all cases. Overall, no benefits for survival or quality of life were observed in 57 percent of the uses, the scientists explain. Their goal was to check whether these drugs already available on the market really lead to an improvement in well-being or survival, explains author Dr. Huseyin Naci from the London School of Economics.

Even after eight years, about 49 percent of the medication did not lead to any significant improvements

The team found in the investigation that after three to eight years of follow-up, 49 percent of the approved uses of the drugs were not associated with any clear signs of improvement in survival or quality of life. When survival benefits were found to be clinically meaningless in almost half of the cases, the experts add.

Few studies deal with overall survival or quality of life

According to Dr. It is also surprising to Naci that not many studies consider overall survival or quality of life as their primary goal. Instead, most studies examine indirect measures, such as laboratory tests. These measures were believed to provide evidence of the survival benefits of a drug. When new drugs come onto the market, it can actually be expected that companies will invest in longer-term studies to determine the benefits for survival and make them public. However, this is not necessarily the truth. However, the results obtained should not now lead to worried patients, adds author Dr. Naci added.

Many drugs launched without an improved effect

The lack of improvement in drug effectiveness in terms of survival is disappointing, doctors say. It is not without reason that there are experts here who are calling for a stricter approach to evaluating cancer drugs. There is also the question of why about half of all drugs are approved if they do not offer clinically meaningful benefits.

Real effects on wellbeing and survival must be considered

Ideally, studies should try to measure treatment failure markers early so that health authorities can make balanced decisions, the scientists say. Real effects on patient well-being and survival should therefore be considered, and not just clinical trial data. This can improve understanding of how well drugs work in a real environment and how potent their effectiveness is. (as)

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