“Breakthrough” cancer drugs that can extend lives are taking 22 years to reach patients on the NHS, a major study has found.
The research by British scientists found that the most innovative treatments – which can radically overhaul the way diseases are treated – take far longer than conventional drugs to get the green light.
The study by the Institute of Cancer Research examined all cancer drugs licensed by European watchdogs over a 16-year period.
It found that between 2009 and 2016, it took an average of 14 years for treatments to go from a patent being filed to it being available on the NHS. The situation was even worse than it had been between 2000 and 2008, when it took 12.8 years.
The more innovative a drug was, the longer it took to be funded on the NHS – on average, taking just over three years longer than conventional treatments to get to patients.
All new drugs take 10 to 12 years from patent date to general approval and use. That’s just how long the approval process (EMA, FDA, whatever) takes. The NHS might be even slower than that, sure, but that’s not the major issue here at all.
Cases highlighted in the study include a drug called trabectedin, which can extend the lives of those with advanced soft tissue carcinoma.
It took 22 years from the drug being patented to getting the go-ahead from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Another drug used to treat bone cancer took 20 years to reach this stage,
That’s drugs falling out of patent, dropping in price by 80 to 90%, then the NHS being willing to pay for the presumably marginal benefit – it now meets the £50k per Qualy for cancer drugs.
Hey, maybe the NHS is worse than others. But the real time killer here is the general approval system.