Cancer is one of the most serious conditions a person can suffer from. So you'd think that the drugs used to treat cancer would be some of the best available. Well, it turns out many patients would be no better off taking a placebo.
The European Medicines Agency conducted a study of 48 drugs used to treat cancer from 2009 to 2013. They found that 57 percent of those drugs either didn't improve chances of survival nor improved the patients' quality of life. In fact only 10 percent of drugs led to an improvement in a cancer patient's quality of life.
“What we find very surprising is that not very many studies are looking at overall survival or quality of life as their [primary] objective,” Huseyin Naci, an assistant professor of health policy at the London School of Economics and one of the studies co-authors, told The Guardian. “Unfortunately the expectation is that once the drugs are on the market then companies will be investing in [longer term] trials to then demonstrate overall survival benefits. But unfortunately these trials are not necessarily taken up and conducted.”
Another professor from the University of Oxford told The Guardian, "It is hard to understand why half the drugs were approved in the first place if they provide no clinically meaningful benefit."
While the study only looked at cancer drugs in Europe, it's hard to believe that there would be a dramatic difference between the ones available overseas and those in the United States. And unlike in Europe, where many countries pay for the healthcare of its citizens, Americans are dropping huge amounts of money for these drugs that may be providing absolutely no benefit.
At least we know there's one drug that can help people with cancer: marijuana.