Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pharma Firms End Trials Early For Larger Profits

Yet another story that exposes that big pharmaceuticals care more about their profits than your health:

The real benefit of some cancer drugs may be exaggerated because of a growing tendency for firms and investigators to call a premature halt to trials the moment a benefit appears, experts warn today.

Italian researchers writing in the cancer journal Annals of Oncology reveal a dramatic increase in the number of studies terminated early. They claim that in some cases drug companies are rushing with early, incomplete results to the licensing authorities. One reason, the researchers suggest, is a desire to get their drugs on the market ahead of their competitors.

Among 14 of these early results published between 2005 and 2007, 11 were used to support a licence application.

"This suggests a commercial component in stopping trials prematurely. In fact, this strategy could guarantee quicker access to the market for companies," said one of the authors, Dr Giovanni Apolone from the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan.

Without the complete information gathered from a full-length trial, he says, it is not certain that a drug is both as effective as the investigators say, and safe in the long term. It can take years for the adverse effects of a drug to come out. The 25 prematurely halted trials in the study lasted, on average, for 30 months.

Given that a whole host of cancer charities have extensive links with pharmaceutical companies, perhaps one ought to be careful about which ones deserve our donations.