Majority of recent cancer drugs approved for use in UK show no survival benefits, study finds

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Last updated:
03/04/2020
cancer, Majority of recent cancer drugs approved for use in UK show no survival benefits, study finds
Global sales of cancer drugs in were around £85 billion in 2015 Credit: Alamy

The majority of cancer drugs approved for use in the UK in recent years are not proven to extend life, research has found.

Researchers said patients were being given “false hope” by drugs which claimed major “breakthroughs” when there was no evidence they could increase survival or quality of life.

The study published in the BMJ examined 48 medications approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to treat 68 separate cancers from 2009 to 2013.

It found that in two thirds of cases, drugs came into the market without clear evdience they could improve survival.

And even five years on, almost half the drugs still showed no survival benefits, and where they did, the difference was “clinically insignificant” researchers from King’s College London and the London School of Economics found.

Researchers said drugs were being passed for use across Europe on the basis of indirect measures – such as showing that medication had a biological effect on the body – rather than actual proof they could benefit patients.

In numbers | Cancer in the UK

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