Cancers in Portugal: clinical trials “very dependent on interests of Pharma companies”

Cancers in Portugal: clinical trials “very dependent on interests of Pharma companies”

Study says more should be done to benefit patients

A study released this week has warned that the investigation of cancer in Portugal “needs to benefit patients”, and that “clinical trials are very dependent on the interests of pharmaceutical companies”.

It is a diplomatic way of pushing for change, to help people – not the companies making money from their illnesses.

ASPIC (the Portuguese association for cancer investigation) stresses that “the national system of investigation into cancer is in expansion”, and capable of producing excellent results “on a European level”. But “the knowledge produced lacks consolidation, and effective translation into benefits for the patient and society”.

Meantime, as everywhere else, the number of cases of cancer is growing. In 2020, for example, Portugal registered 60,000 new cases – and more than 30,000 deaths.

And while investigation has progressed, it hasn’t been given the support it deserves. “Clinical trials that exist are highly dependent on private support, which implies a profile aligned to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry (for example, dedicated to the approval of specific medicines) and potentially less aligned with the clinical specificities of the country and of each hospital centre involved in the studies”, says the study.

What can be done? ASPIC suggests ‘measures’ which could serve as a basis for discussion “with relevant entities” with the power to make decisions to improve Portugal’s less than adequate situation.

Says Lusa: “According to the association, these measures involve the create of centres specifically dedicated to cancer investigation, with sustainable finance – including academic centres, clinical centres and industry.”

ASPIC suggests ‘Cancer Research Hubs’; reinforced investment in instruments, infrastructures and human resources “dedicated to promoting the transfer of basic investigation into approaches that can create innovative products with clinical impact…”

These recommendations ring a loud bell. Back in the early days of the pandemic, intense research into ‘repurposing existing drugs to help in the fight against Covid-19’ came up with three very likely candidates: drugs, already on the market, that reduced symptoms to the point that Covid-19 could be no worse than a cold.

All the researchers needed was the money to take their work to human trials. As far as we can make out, they never received it. Following an initial blast in the national press, all mention of the research disappeared.

The same happened with a Portuguese vaccine, deftly designed so that people could inhale it. Great results – but no funding to take it to the next level. 

Yet there is always money for ‘2nd generation vaccines’ manufactured by the same companies that brought the first vaccines, which we have since been told ‘need topping up probably every year’…

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com