Business & Tech

FDA approves more drugs, and faster, than Europe, study says

Sean Proctor/Globe Staff/File 2015

“We’re the best in the world. Our FDA is great,” said Dr. George Demetri of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who is a board member of the American Association of Cancer Research

WASHINGTON — Contrary to some political claims, the US Food and Drug Administration approved more drugs, and two to three months faster on average, than European regulators did in recent years, new research shows.

‘‘It’s an urban myth’’ that the FDA is slower than other countries to clear promising treatments for patients, said the agency’s longtime cancer drugs chief, Dr. Richard Pazdur.


He had no role in the approval rate research, which was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new research compared how new drugs fared before the FDA and the European Medicines Agency between 2011 and 2015. The FDA approved more drugs than the Europeans — 170 versus 144 — with a median review time of 306 days versus 383 days in Europe.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Reviews were speedier at the FDA for drugs for cancer and blood diseases, but not other maladies, compared to the Europeans. The FDA also moved quicker on so-called orphan drugs, for relatively rare conditions.

The results are similar to a previous analysis that some of the same researchers did for therapies approved between 2001 and 2010. The latest study was done by Dr. Nicholas Downing at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Audrey Zhang at New York University, and Dr. Joseph Ross at the Yale School of Medicine.

President Trump has called the FDA’s drug approval process ‘‘slow and burdensome,’’ and his nominee to head the agency, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has criticized what he calls unnecessary regulations. Gottlieb’s confirmation hearings began on Wednesday.


Some other doctors defended the FDA’s track record.

‘‘We’re the best in the world. Our FDA is great,’’ said Dr. George Demetri of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is a board member of the American Association for Cancer Research, and spoke from the group’s annual meeting in Washington, attended by some 20,000 cancer scientists from around the world.

Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
We hope you've enjoyed your free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of