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Cancer Research Focused on Treatment, Not Prevention

If you could choose between treating cancer once you have been diagnosed or preventing the development of cancer in the first place,, which would you choose? For most people, the answer is simple: it would be far preferable to prevent cancer from ever occurring as opposed to treating cancer once it has developed. Yet a recent article published in The New York Times claims that the the drug patent system and approval process for new drugs through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides incentives to focus on developing drugs to treat and manage cancer that has already been diagnosed (thereby extending patients’ lives by several months) rather than preventing cancer from developing (which could add years or decades to a patients’ lives).

How the FDA and the U.S. Patent System Incentivize Treatment, Not Prevention

According to the article, when a drug company has a new idea for a drug, it will file and obtain a patent on its new creation. Once a patent application is approved, the company has only a couple of decades before the patent expires. The sooner the company can get its drug on the market, the higher the profits it will realize. But before a new cancer drug is released on the market and available for use, it must be approved by the FDA. The only way a drug will receive FDA approval is through the completion of necessary clinical trials. And here is the rub – it is faster to show results in clinical trials for drugs that treat cancer as opposed to those drugs that prevent cancer from occurring. Hence the inherent incentive to create drugs that treat, rather than prevent cancer.

Can Anything Be Done to Incentivize Cancer Prevention?

Despite the current state of affairs, there are proposed solutions that would make it more financially lucrative for drug companies to develop cancer-preventing drugs. One such proposal is to allow clinical trials of these drugs to use “surrogate endpoints” to measure success: goals or objectives other than survival but which could nonetheless suggest an increased survival rate. This would decrease the time necessary for clinical trials to be deemed successful and thus give the drug companies additional time to capitalize on the benefits of its patent.

Another proposed solution would allow drug companies developing cancer-preventing medications to have the protections of their patent extended in consideration of the time it presently takes to complete clinical trials of these drugs. (Presently a company can obtain up to five additional years of patent protection, depending on how long the drug is in clinical trials.)

Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. for Assistance

Residents of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who have been diagnosed with cancer or any other illness or condition should expect their medical team to provide them with reasonable care and treatment. If you have been injured because your medical team made a careless mistake, or if your life expectancy was reduced and/or your chance of survival diminished because of a medical mistake, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. right away.

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