The new cancer drugs – Helpful or harmful? | DW Documentary

Every year in Germany, 500,000 people are diagnosed with cancer. Only about half of these people can be cured. It’s no wonder that the pharmaceutical industry works tirelessly to deliver improved treatments. But how reliable are the new drugs?

Pharmaceutical cancer research is in full swing. New products are constantly entering the market, promising patients longer and more pain-free lives. Others even hold out the prospect of a cure.
Many of these treatments come to the market via an accelerated process. Often, they are accompanied by talk of major breakthroughs and new strategies: Targeted hormone therapy, antibody therapy, gene therapy. Spending on cancer drugs has risen by more than 50 percent in recent years – to more than 8.6 billion Euros in 2019.

It’s a profitable market for the pharmaceutical industry. But survival rates are not increasing as much as hoped. “We are in a situation where we have more and more fast-tracked drugs with less and less certainty about the actual benefit. And we’re in a situation where we’re spending a lot of money on them,” says Prof. Wolf-Dieter Ludwig, Chairman of the German Medical Association’s Drug Commission.

So, what is really known about the new cancer drugs? Their side-effects, benefits and potential harm they may cause? How well-researched are they before they come to market? Who controls their usage in practice? This documentary looks for answers.

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