Drugs: Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s better

Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s betterJust because it’s new – just because it’s ‘scientific’ – just because the doctor says it’s good for you – just because the government pays for it – just because other people are taking it DOES NOT mean it’s either safe or effective.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). May 1, 2002 it is revealed that one fifth of all new drugs have life-threatening adverse effects. Some dangers don’t become evident for many years.

The study, conducted due to the insistence of the ‘Public Citizen’ Health Research Group, a non-profit consumer advocacy organisation and performed by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that only half of these serious adverse effects are detected within seven years of a drug being first introduced to the market. Damage to the liver, heart and bone marrow, as well as pregnancy risks, are the most common problems that arise after new drugs are introduced.

Prescription drug adverse effects are a major public health problem, which results in a significant percentage of hospital admittances. With 20% of all new drugs being found to have serious or life threatening effects unknown (or undisclosed) at the time of drug approval it is no wonder that the costs of treating the side effects of prescribed drugs is almost as much as the money spent on the drugs in the first place.

50% of all the drugs presently on the market were not in existence 10 years ago when the average doctor was trained. This means that doctors are currently being trained in their drug prescribing methods by drug salespeople. The influential ‘persuasions’ and enticements of the drug companies (which spend over $200 million per year in Australia to market their ‘new’, ‘better’ products) are hitting their mark with a vengeance.

Will this study, others like it or any rational discussion cause doctors to change the way they prescribe? Probably not. Then what will? Informed consumers will. People who realise that just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s better.