Have you ever heard of cancer being medically cured? Well, this might have been possible if pharmaceutical companies focused their research on disease prevention rather than treatment, but the economic incentives behind the drugs business would not let them do this - The New York Times reports.
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Everyone knows that terminal diseases such as cancer are better prevented than treated, but rather than focus attention on drugs that would prevent potential patients from developing the disease, drug companies prefer to focus on drugs that will prolong the lives of the patients by a few months – because this is where the money lies.
This fact was revealed in a study conducted by Heidi Williams, an MIT economics professor; and Eric Budish, a University of Chicago economics professor; and Ben Roin, assistant professor of technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic management at MIT.
According to the authors of the study, “R & D on cancer prevention and treatment of early-stage cancer is very socially valuable, yet our work shows that society provides private firms — perhaps inadvertently — with surprisingly few incentives to conduct this kind of research.”
After securing patent for a drug, the only way a drug company can secure FDA approval is by demonstrating that a drug is safe and effective via clinical trials – but clinical trials can take years to conduct – years that are eating into the lifetime of the drug to be FDA-approved.
So drug makers conduct clinical trials with patients who are at the late-stage of their disease because results come in quickly – something that will help drug companies to secure FDA approval in time and to make more money quicker.
To prove that this is what is actually happening, the researchers analyzed data from 1973 to 2011, and this involved 12,000 clinical trials for late-state patients with 90% chance of dying within 5 years. The only problem is that within this same period, only 6,000 trials were run on early-state cancer patients with 30% risks of dying in 5 years.
Furthermore, there were over 17,000 trials conducted on patients who had very slim chances of surviving with recurrent cancers; while only 500 trials were run on patients for the purpose of cancer prevention. This shows that when private companies fund drug trials, they often do so for trials to be carried out on patients with very slim chances of living beyond a period of time rather than on disease prevention.