BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
European cancer patients' raw deal
Cancer drug
Europe lags behind the US in making new cancer drugs available
European cancer patients may be suffering because it takes too long to approve the latest drugs which could help them.

The European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA) has a "fast-track" procedure which it could use to speed the lengthy regulatory process separating a new drug from the open market.


European cancer patients are deprived of potentially effective treatments which are available for use in other parts of the world

Kathy Redmond
However, compared to the US, it rarely uses it, claimed an Italian-based researcher - since 1995, only two cancer drugs have been dealt with this way.

Kathy Redmond, a healthcare consultant working in Milan, said that the fast-track mechanism had only been called into action for a series of anti-HIV/Aids drugs, and Viagra, the erectile dysfunction drug.

One cancer drug, in comparison, took two-and-a-half years to pass through the approval process.

Double-quick

In the US, she found, the situation is quite different - on average, approval of cancer drugs takes 273 days, compared to the European average of 471.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast-tracked 28 drugs in 1999 - five of which were cancer drugs.

Ms Redmond said: "EMEA is slower than FDA in approving cancer drugs.

"This means that European cancer patients are deprived of potentially effective treatments which are available for use in other parts of the world."

Breast drug

The classic example of a cancer drug denied to UK patients for years is the breast cancer drug Herceptin, which has been available to patients in the US for more than four years.

It was finally licenced for use in the UK in 1999 - however, in many places in the UK, women who want the drug have to pay for it themselves as the NHS has still not decided whether or not to fund it.

A decision has been deferred to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, and it is expected soon.

Ms Redmond said that the effectiveness of the HIV/Aids lobby is one of the reasons why the approval of drugs for these patients is delivered more quickly.

"In Europe it devotes a lot of attention to working with the EMEA to speed new treatment proposals. Compare this with what happens in cancer."

Dr Kathleen Pritchard, Head of Clinical Trials at the Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, said that a fine balance had to be drawn between safety and speed.

She added: "An issue of responsible regulation arises from this - the process used to do this can be pretty bureaucratic - but it's an extremely important issue."

The European Cancer Conference - full coverage

Key stories

THE DISEASE
See also:

15 Aug 01 | Health
09 Nov 00 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes