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Faster and Now More Common

Fast tracking of drug approvals was intended to enable a small portion of treatments to get to patients more quickly, but the Wall Street Journal writes that fast tracking has become common.

According to the Journal, the US Food and Drug Administration approved 43 fast-tracked drugs — 73 percent of all approved drugs — last year, as compared to 10 — 38 percent of all approved drugs — 10 years ago. It adds that portion of new drugs that have received such approval has been at least 60 percent for the last five years, suggesting that it is becoming more common.

These faster approvals, the Journal notes, rely on earlier stage research and more limited evidence that a drug may extend lives, though it's expected that more effectiveness data will be generated once the drug is on the market.

However, this has led to some fast-tracked drugs like Eli Lilly's Lartruvo being pulled once a larger study found it didn't extend the lives of patients with advanced sarcoma, the Journal says, noting that other fast-tracked drugs have been successful.

For others, the evidence is still limited, it adds, noting that 44 percent of fast-tracked cancer drug approvals made between 2011 and 2014 have not generated proof that they extend lives.