Multi-corporation cooperative efforts announced; more and more conduct their own trials
Two January 2016 reports on big pharma combine to show that, while corporations are pledging to join forces against persistent scourges like cancer, they are more frequently acting as the foxes which mind the safety and efficacy chicken coops.
An article from Reuters says that “Clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health have fallen every year since 2006, while studies funded by the drug industry have risen significantly in that time. Reporting on a study that appears this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the new source says that NIH-funded studies fell from 1,376 in 2006 to 1,048 in 2014, while pharmaceutical industry trials rose from 4,585 to 6,550 during that same period.
“The swing may be concerning for the medical community, as drug industry trials are — naturally — focused on supporting each company’s own products, whereas NIH-funded trials may compare drugs or even test treatments that focus on lifestyle changes, Reuters reports. ‘Given that the industry has a vested interest in the outcome of those trials then we don’t get good data to inform health of the public,’” study co-author Stephan Ehrhardt, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said.
It hasn’t helped that funding for the NIH has been dropping. Reuters reports that NIH’s budget fell 14 percent between 2006 and 2014. Fortunately, it looks like the agency is in for a significant boost next year. TheHill.com reports that the new government funding bill would increase the NIH’s research budget by $2 billion.
In the second week of January, the New York Times reported that leaders from the world’s top pharmaceutical companies had announced that they would team up to launch the National Immunotherapy Coalition.
The collaboration involves “accelerating the potential of combination immunotherapies as the next generation standard of care in patients with cancer,” according to the official announcement.
“Pharmaceutical companies like Amgen, Celgene, and more are taking part in this endeavor along with insurance provider Independence Blue Cross. Well-known pharmaceutical billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong played an influential role in uniting all of these entities,” said the Times.
“All participants will work together to enroll 20,000 patients in a large swath of clinical trials by the year 2020,” the paper reported. “Researchers from the National Cancer Institute, community oncologists, and academic medical centers will test different drug combinations in patients with up to 20 different types of cancers.”
Their methods will span from full sequencing of an individual’s DNA to a full profile of the immune system to determine which drugs would be best suited for certain types of cancer.
“The manufacturers of the drugs would then get valuable information on what combinations work best for which types of cancer, information they can use to plan larger studies aimed at getting the drugs approved,” Dr. Soon-Shiong told the Times in an interview.
The daily added that “This partnership serves as the basis for a project Dr. Soon-Shiong calls Cancer Moonshot 2020, which sounds similar to an effort Vice President Joe Biden had discussed after his son passed away from brain cancer last year.”