Over 1100 new meds, vaccines being developed to treat cancer


Photo by Bill Branson

Vials of drugs

Currently, 1,120 new medicines and vaccines are being developed to treat cancer, according to a new report of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

And all of them, the organization states, are in clinical trials or awaiting review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Leading the way are treatments for solid tumors, with 397 in development. Treatments for blood cancers are not far behind, with nearly 340 medicines in development: 137 for leukemias, 135 for lymphomas, and 62 for multiple myeloma.

Immuno-oncology and personalized medicine have a hand in this increase.

In the last year, according to PhRMA’s "Medicines in Development for Cancer 2018 Report," 47 new immune-oncology treatments have been added to the development pipeline, including CAR-T therapies and checkpoint inhibitors.

This brings the total to 295 immuno-oncology medicines and vaccines in the development pipeline this year.

The report also states that about 85% of these medicines in the oncology pipeline are first-in-class.

And PhRMA attributes the approximately 73% of survival gains in cancer to the new medicines.

Despite the bright picture, PhRMA acknowledges the financial burden and medical care challenges patients encounter.

It addresses them in a new chart pack, "Cancer Medicines: Value in Context," which puts cancer costs in perspective and offers solutions for improving the current system in the United States.

The association reports the top medical financial concerns of patients to be diagnostic tests or scans (53%), prescription medicines (43%), physician office visits (39%), outpatient treatments-including radiation (37%), and surgery (36%).

Spending on cancer medicines represents about 1% of overall healthcare spending, according to the organization, with cancer medications accounting for $49.8 billion of the $3.49 trillion healthcare spending in the United States.

Cancer medicines represent about 20% of spending on cancer, PhrMA notes, and some insurance plans place treatments for certain high-cost conditions on the highest drug formulary cost-sharing tier.

And patients with the highest copay were 5 times more likely to abandon treatment than the lowest copay group, PhRMA points out.

“No patient should struggle to afford their needed treatments,” PhRMA stated in a release, “and it is important that we address patient access challenges.”

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