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According to a New York Times article, the results of a study by Heidi Williams, an MIT economics professor, revealed why drugmakers focus more on drugs that treat later stage cancer than those that prevent cancer. She said that this is influenced by the amount of time available for exclusive commercialization by the current patent system and the FDA approval of the drug which can take long once the patent has been approved.


The study showed that between 1973 and 2011:

  • For late-stage cancer patients with 90% chance of dying in 5 years: There were 12,000 trials
  • For patients with 30% chance of dying with earlier stage cancer: There were 6000 trials
  • Those with lowest chance of survival: There were 17,000 clinical trials
  • Cancer prevention: There were 500 trials

Williams found that this trend was more prevalent in privately funded trials than in publicly funded trials, and that it led to 890,000 life years lost among patients discovered to have cancer in 2003.

To read the complete article in the New York Times, please click here.

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