Communication of anticancer drug benefits and related uncertainties to patients and clinicians: document analysis of regulated information on prescription drugs in Europe

Courtney Davis*, Anita K. Wagner, Maximilian Salcher-Konrad, Henry Scowcroft, Barbara Mintzes, Adrian M.J. Pokorny, Jianhui Lew, Huseyin Naci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the frequency with which relevant and accurate information about the benefits and related uncertainties of anticancer drugs are communicated to patients and clinicians in regulated information sources in Europe. Design: Document content analysis. Setting: European Medicines Agency. Participants: Anticancer drugs granted a first marketing authorisation by the European Medicines Agency, 2017-19. Main outcome measures: Whether written information on a product addressed patients' commonly asked questions about: who and what the drug is used for; how the drug was studied; types of drug benefit expected; and the extent of weak, uncertain, or missing evidence for drug benefits. Information on drug benefits in written sources for clinicians (summaries of product characteristics), patients (patient information leaflets), and the public (public summaries) was compared with information reported in regulatory assessment documents (European public assessment reports). Results: 29 anticancer drugs that received a first marketing authorisation for 32 separate cancer indications in 2017-19 were included. General information about the drug (including information on approved indications and how the drug works) was frequently reported across regulated information sources aimed at both clinicians and patients. Nearly all summaries of product characteristics communicated full information to clinicians about the number and design of the main studies, the control arm (if any), study sample size, and primary measures of drug benefit. None of the patient information leaflets communicated information to patients about how drugs were studied. 31 (97%) summaries of product characteristics and 25 (78%) public summaries contained information about drug benefits that was accurate and consistent with information in regulatory assessment documents. The presence or absence of evidence that a drug extended survival was reported in 23 (72%) summaries of product characteristics and four (13%) public summaries. None of the patient information leaflets communicated information about the drug benefits that patients might expect based on study findings. Scientific concerns about the reliability of evidence on drug benefits, which were raised by European regulatory assessors for almost all drugs in the study sample, were rarely communicated to clinicians, patients, or the public. Conclusions: The findings of this study highlight the need to improve the communication of the benefits and related uncertainties of anticancer drugs in regulated information sources in Europe to support evidence informed decision making by patients and their clinicians.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere073711
JournalBMJ
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

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