Sep 25, 2019

Pharmaceutical investments in cancer drugs soar despite few results

Small bottles filled with a sterile cancer drug. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/Getty Images

Pharmaceutical investment in cancer treatments has risen drastically over the past decade, as has spending on cancer drugs, but the results have been comparatively small, UC Hastings law professor Robin Feldman argues in a WashPost op-ed.

Why it matters: Every dollar invested in cancer is a dollar that isn't invested elsewhere — for example, in antibiotics.

  • "The greatest risk is not only that our moonshot may fail, but that the nation’s other public health needs will be left in the dust," Feldman writes.
  • U.S. law — including law designed to increase investment in rare diseases — incentivizes companies to invest in cancer, she adds.
  • "By classifying so many cancers as rare diseases afflicting under 200,000 people each, this regulatory setup has unleashed a veritable tidal wave of oncology drugs," she writes.

By the numbers: Since 2013, cancer drug spending as a proportion of all U.S. drug spending has increased by nearly 60%, but the overall death rate from cancer has decreased by only 5% since 1950.

  • Cancer drugs approved between 2003 and 2013 increased survival by an average of 3.4 months.

Go deeper: Pharma goes all in on cancer treatments

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Study finds lung cancer in mice exposed to nicotine vaping

Photo: Rapeepong Puttakumwong/Getty Images

A New York University study has identified a pattern of lung cancer in mice exposed to the same amount of e-cigarette vapor as someone who's been using e-cigs for approximately three to six years.

The big picture: As vaping deaths and illnesses rise, the medical community and health regulators are increasingly concerned about the unknown effects of e-cigarette use. While e-cigs were originally meant to help cigarette users ween off smoking as a whole, vaping has dramatically increased in popularity in recent years, especially among young people.

Go deeperArrowOct 7, 2019

3 scientists earn Nobel Prize in medicine for studying how cells react to oxygen

The Nobel Committee announces the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in medicine. Photo: Johnathan Nockstrand/AFP/Getty Images

3 scientists — 2 American, 1 British — won the 2019 Nobel Prize in medicine for studying how cells sense and react to varying oxygen levels, per AP.

Why it matters: The Nobel Committee said the scientists' work has "greatly expanded our knowledge of how physiological response makes life possible" and kickstarted new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and other diseases.

Flashback: Cancer immunotherapy researchers win Nobel Prize in medicine

California will be first state to sell HIV-prevention drugs over the counter

A man shows Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV preventative drug. Photo: Daniel Born/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images

California will be the first state to sell HIV-prevention drugs over the counter after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law this week.

Why it matters: It's "a move that supporters say is an important step towards ending the AIDS epidemic," writes the New York Times.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019