The pharmaceutical industry responds to the increased incidence of cancer: one in two clinical trials focuses on oncology

The impulse to biomedical research in this area allows disease control for longer, increases survival and improves the quality of life of patients

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products has closed 2019 with 309 authorizations for clinical trials for cancer, and the pharmaceutical industry has more than 1,800 new medicines in the world.

As every year, the world commemorates on February 4 the fight against cancer, which many call the epidemic of the 21st century. This title does not seem unfortunate, because it is not a single disease, but it agglutinates a large and heterogeneous group of pathologies that are increasingly prevalent in the population, given the increasing rates of aging, increasing diagnosis, Early detection programs and greater exposure to risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, obesity, pollution or sedentary lifestyle.

Cancer figures in Spain, published every year by the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), offer an idea of ??the epidemic: by 2020 it is expected that 277,300 patients diagnosed with a tumor -160,000 men and 117,000 will be exceeded in our country women-, and it is estimated that by 2040 there will be more than 29 million new annual cases diagnosed worldwide.

The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to this reality and in recent years has been demonstrating its commitment to this growing need within healthcare systems to make available new antitumor drugs that are increasingly precise and effective. The proof? According to the latest data from the BEST Project (the Pharmaindustry initiative for the promotion of clinical research in Spain), one in two clinical trials promoted by innovative pharmaceutical companies focus on the oncological area.

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps) has closed 2019 with 309 authorizations for clinical trials for cancer. And another test: there are more than 1,800 new drugs in development for these pathologies in the world that are also due to the innovative efforts of pharmaceutical companies.

Survival figures

This boost to biomedical research in oncology, which is the area that has grown the most in recent years along with R&D in rare diseases (25% of new approvals correspond to orphan drugs), allows the control of pathology for longer, it increases survival and improves the quality of life of patients. Specifically, the new antitumor drugs available in the last 20 years have increased the 5-year survival rates for the most common types of cancer (breast, prostate, colorectal and lung). This evolution has also been favorable in cases of metastatic tumors, such as skin cancer, where the survival rate has increased from 5% to 50% in just ten years.

A recent report on cancer mortality in Europe confirms this. Although between 1995 and 2018 the incidence of cancer cases in the countries of the European Union has increased by almost 50% – from 2.1 million diagnoses to 3.1 million -, mortality has only done so by 20% -from 1.2 million in 1995 to 1.4 million in 2018-.

The study, Comparator Report in Cancer in Europe 2020, conducted by the Swedish Institute of Health Economics commissioned by the Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (Efpia), is an update of several reports published between 2005 and 2016 on the differences among European countries in terms of disease burden, costs and patient access to new cancer drugs. The study authors highlight how the increase in cancer mortality in this period is clearly less than the increase in cancer incidence, which has led to an increasing gap between incidence and mortality.

The study Survival of cancer in Spain, 2002-2013, of the Spanish Network of Cancer Registries (Redecan) – which analyzes data from population-based cancer registries corresponding to thirteen provinces and three islands – also shows hopeful patient survival figures Oncological This indicator is increasing continuously in our country and is now at 55.3% for men and 61.7% for women five years after diagnosis. They are three points more than average for the total of cancers in the period 2008-2013 with respect to the previous five years.

Despite these good results, the investment in oncological medicines in Spain (not only innovative) amounted to 1,862 million euros, according to closing data of 2018 provided by the General Directorate of Basic Portfolio and Pharmacy of the Ministry of Health. This figure represents about 10% of public pharmaceutical expenditure and 2.8% of public health expenditure. These percentages are lower than the figures that were handled five years ago, when there were fewer cases of cancer diagnosed and there were fewer therapeutic options available.

The revolution of CAR-T therapies

And it is that pharmaceutical innovation has contributed significantly to the most important advances in oncology of the last decades, from the revolutionary drugs against breast cancer from the mid-90s to targeted therapies for lung, prostate, colon tumors and skin extended at the beginning of the past decade, going through immunotherapy. Today they are known as CAR-T therapies, a step more precisely in immunotherapy, which have come to revolutionize the approach to tumors, mainly hematological and in many cases children, which is a new door open to hope for many patients and their families

These therapies have modified clinical practice and manage cure rates of 85%. In Spain there are already dozens of patients who are benefiting from the CAR-T supplied by the reference hospitals designated by the Ministry of Health.

All these indicators and news about cancer and its treatments are available from today in the space The value of the cancer drug, which includes updated, in addition to data on incidence, investment or new therapies, results obtained thanks to the new drugs in Some of the most prevalent tumors.

“Cancer is one of the biggest challenges that modern societies face, and the pharmaceutical industry has become a strategic ally for health systems to cope with it,” says the director general of Farmaindustria, Humberto Arnés.

Research, collaboration and access to medicine

In his opinion, the significant improvement in the survival figures of cancer patients is the great proof that the contributions of innovative companies are translating into health outcomes, although it is true that “there is still much to be done. But the answer cannot be from a single agent; the approach to cancer is a matter of all: administrations, industry, healthcare professionals, researchers and patients. ”

In this line of collaboration, and from the wake-up call that SEOM made a few months ago on inequalities in access to oncological drugs, the director general of Farmaindustria underlines as a common challenge that “cancer patients can have access to innovations available for each pathology on equal terms throughout the national territory and thus ensure the highest quality of pharmaceutical delivery throughout the SNS ”. Pharmaceutical companies are committed to reconciling access to medicine and sustainability of the health system (hence rationalization measures such as risk-sharing agreements, expenditure ceilings or the Collaboration Agreement between Government and Pharmaceutical Industry for budgetary control), he explains Harness, and “that should help us ensure that all patients in Spain have the treatment they need.”

Yesterday, February 4 was World Cancer Day and in Distefar we joined the cause insisting on the importance that clinical trials take in this type of disease.

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