Managed Care Outlook

Oncologists: FDA needs to speed up approval of cancer-fighting drugs

Cancer specialists think that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is too slow to approve new cancer-fighting medications and devices, and that such tardiness hinders physicians' ability to fight the disease.

A Competitive Enterprise Institute survey of 160 cancer specialists found that almost 8 of 10 oncologists think the FDA's approval process has "hurt their ability, at least once in their medical careers, to treat patients with the best possible care."

Specialists also say that society is, for the most part, unaware of the problem; 70 percent believe that the general population doesn't understand the human cost of the FDA approval process and that "Some people may suffer or die waiting for the agency to act."

While this news is somewhat sobering, there is a bright spot, according to Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Frist, MD, a Harvard-trained surgeon.

"What used to take several years has now been reduced to an average review time of 6 to 10 months for new drugs," he says. "Yet, as many respondents indicated, more needs to be done to improve the drug-review process."

Respondents were asked whether they agree that the additional time it takes the FDA to approve drugs and medical devices costs lives by forcing people to go without potentially beneficial therapies."To what extent does this FDA policy of limiting information make it more difficult for you to learn about new uses for drugs or devices?'"Would you say the FDA's approval process has hurt your ability to treat your patients with the best possible care frequently, some of the time, at least once, or never?


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