Most Innovative Cancer Drugs Take Years Longer To Reach Patients, Alarming Study Shows


  • Cancer researchers say the most innovative drugs are taking more than three years longer to get approval for patients compared to standard treatments.
  • Researchers claim the health systems in charge of new drug discovery and development are becoming too opposed to taking risks.
  • The study found that innovative drugs are the best way to beat evolving cancers and drug-resistant illnesses.

LONDON — New breakthroughs in medicine take time to make. Most inventions go through a long trial period before they ever reach the public.¬†Although some patients might be willing to try a risky new procedure, researchers say the medical industry is becoming less willing to take those risks. The result is allegedly keeping the most contemporary¬†cancer treatments away from patients, sometimes for several years.

Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London say that highly innovative treatments took 3.2 years longer than standard drugs to go from being filed for a patent to actually reaching patients. On average, the most unique treatments took over 14 years to clear all the hurdles tied to licensing a new drug. The least innovative treatments took a little more than 11 years to reach the public.

The study focused on all cancer drugs licensed through the European Medicines Agency between 2000 and 2016. The biggest delay was found to be when drugs reached the start of a “phase I trial” to the point where it received government approval. Innovative drugs took over two years longer to get through this process.

“It is taking longer for new drugs to reach patients and, alarmingly, the delays are longest for the most exciting, innovative treatments, with the greatest potential to transform the lives of patients,” Prof. Paul Workman, the study leader at the ICR, said in a statement.

More Drugs Approved, But Still Falling Behind

Researchers in the United Kingdom found one positive development in recent years. Only about six cancer drugs were being licensed by the EMA each year from 2000 to 2008. That number jumped to over 13 licensed annually from 2009 to 2016.

The news wasn’t all good however, as the time it took to set up a phase I trial for those drugs jumped from two years in 2008 to three years in 2016.

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“It is taking longer for new drugs to reach patients and, alarmingly, the delays are longest for the most exciting, innovative treatments, with the greatest potential to transform the lives of patients,” Workman added.

Researchers say more innovative treatments are key in fighting new weaknesses in cancer. They are hoping their research will argue the case for streamlining the regulations that keep drugs from reaching patients quickly.

“It’s crucial that academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies should feel that the regulatory systems for drug development support risk taking and innovation, rather than discouraging it and slowing it down,” the study argues.

The study is published the journal Drug Discovery Today.

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