Importance: There is a dearth of evidence examining the impact of newly licensed cancer medicines on therapy. This information could otherwise support clinical practice, and promote value-based decision-making in the cancer drug market.
Objective: To evaluate the comparative therapeutic value of all new cancer medicines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) between 2003 and 2013.
Design, setting, and participants: We used a narrative synthesis approach to systematically synthesize and analyze English, French, and Australian health technology assessments (HTAs) of all new cancer medicines licensed in the United States and Europe between 2003 and 2013.
Interventions: Sixty-two new molecular entities with a primary oncology indication.
Main outcomes and measures: Overall survival (OS), quality of life (QoL), and safety.
Results: Of the 62 new active cancer molecules approved by the FDA and EMA between 2003 and 2013, 53 were appraised by English, French, or Australian HTA agencies through May 2015. Of these 53 drugs, 23 (43%) increased OS by 3 months or longer, 6 (11%) by less than 3 months, and 8 (15%) by an unknown magnitude; there was no evidence to suggest that the remaining 16 (30%) increased OS over best alternative treatments. Where overall survival gains could be quantified, all new cancer drugs were associated with a mean (SE) total increase in OS of 3.43 (0.63) months over the treatments that were available in 2003. Drug-related improvements in OS were, however, widely distributed across therapeutic targets-ranging between 0 (thyroid, ascites) and 8.48 months (breast cancers)-and were sometimes based on modeled data, indirect or nonactive comparisons, or nonvalidated evidence. Although 22 (42%) of 53 new medicines were associated with an increase in QoL, 24 (45%) were also associated with reduced patient safety. Of the 53 new cancer drugs, 42 (79%) were associated with at least some improvement in OS, QoL, or safety.
Conclusions and relevance: Although innovation in the oncology drug market has contributed to improvements in therapy, the magnitude and dimension of clinical benefits vary widely, and there may be reasons to doubt that claims of efficacy reflect real-world effectiveness exactly. These findings raise important questions for clinical decision-making and value-based policy.