Pharmaceutical companies are often maligned by the public, regulators, and the cancer community. Some of the criticism is fair and justified and your Chicago Cancer Examiner does not hesitate to criticize drug companies when warranted.
But the reality is that pharmaceutical companies – motivated by the pursuit of profit (which stimulates the imperfect, but most effective economic engine known as capitalism) – have impacted the lives of cancer patients by developing therapies saving patients’ lives, extending patients’ lives, and enhancing the quality of patients’ lives. Drug company investment in research together with government funded cancer research, private philanthropy, and the engaged cancer community are the forces leading to better treatments and ultimate to the cure for cancer in all of its horrible forms.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade organization representing American biopharmaceutical researchers and biotechnology companies, recently released an interesting report, entitled Medicines in Development Leukemia and Lymphoma: A Report on Cancers of the Blood. The report notes that biopharmaceutical research companies are developing hundreds of medicines for blood cancers. This report lists medicines in human clinical trials or under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
PhRMA identifies 24 therapies for hematological malignancies in general, 97 for leukemia, 98 for lymphoma, 52 for myeloma, and 15 for myeloproliferative neoplasms (myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera, and essential thrombocythemia) and for myelodysplastic syndromes. Some of the drugs have been approved for other uses and types of blood cancer, others have not.
The report includes a listing of the drugs, including drug name, the drug company, indications for the drug, and the stage of development. The listing serves as a useful checklist for patients researching and weighing their treatment options and the potential for participating in clinical trials.
The report also describes the drug discovery and development process. It states that developing a new medicine takes an average of 10-15 years from the laboratory until it is available for patients in the United States. According to the report, “only five in 5,000 compounds that enter preclinical testing make it to human testing. And only one of those five is approved for sale.” Citing a report from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Developments, PhRMA states that, when all of the failures are considered, it costs a company on average $1.2 billion to get a new drug from the laboratory to U.S. patients.
Cancer research saves lives and the cancer community must continue to press for new and better treatments. This involves encouraging investment in research, fundraising to support research, and advocating for having the maximum number of safe and effective treatment options made available to patients as soon as possible.
All of the drugs in the pipeline provide another message of hope for patients and families impacted by cancer.