Trending News Today: Efficacy of Newly-Approved Cancer Drugs in Question

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Despite a wave of FDA approvals for oncologic drugs, many of these treatments have offered patients only marginal benefits, with no evidence of improvement in survival or quality of life, according to Kaiser Health News. Findings from a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, showed that 72 cancer therapies approved between 2002 and 2014 only extended patients’ lives by 2.1 months compared with older drugs. Dr Vinay Prasad, assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University, who has extensively written about the FDA’s approval process for cancer drugs, told Kaiser that two-thirds of oncologic drugs approved in the past 2 years showed no evidence of extending survival at all. According to FDA officials, there are good reasons for why many promising cancer drugs lack evidence of improved survival, including the design of some cancer trials; overall survival rates do not reflect certain drugs that demonstrate survival benefits in a subset of patients; and because some cancers grow slowly, it can take many years for a study to show whether the drug improves survival, Kaiser reported.

The Senate has approved the nomination of Rep Tom Price (R-Georgia) for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a 52 to 47 vote. As health secretary, Price will lead President Donald Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and has proposed a replacement plan that would roll back federal insurance standards and give states more authority, reported the New York Times. Democrats said that Price has shown bad judgement by actively trading shares for medical and pharmaceutical companies, while shaping health policy in Congress. Republicans have fired back saying Democrats have been dragging their feet on confirming President Trump’s nominees because of their desire to block, stall, and obstruct the president at every turn, the NY Times reported. Price will be the first physician to lead the HHS since Dr Louis W. Sullivan stepped down in January 1993.

After committing insurance violations, which resulted in hefty penalties from state regulators, Zenefits is laying off nearly half of its workforce, according to the NY Times. The company, which offers free human-resources software to manage benefits and payroll, while making its money as an insurance broker, said 430 employees will lose their jobs, reducing staffing levels to approximately one-third of what it was a year prior, the NY Times reported. A spokeswoman for Zenefits said in a statement that the layoffs are part of a widespread restructuring effort to reduce costs, and has been planned for quite some time. Employees were notified of the layoffs in a memo by Jay Fulcher, who started as the company’s CEO on Monday.