Drug companies will stop at nothing to convince docs to prescribe the latest and newest drug. Or to convince you—the end user—that you actually need this new drug. And they spend tens of billions of dollars every year on advertising to do exactly that.
But here’s the thing: Most new drugs—and the ones prescribed for neurologic and psychiatric issues, in particular—don’t offer any benefit above and beyond current standard treatments.
That’s the main takeaway of one new study. Needless to say, if more people—especially doctors—knew this, it would save health care systems the world over a whole lot of money.
New, but not improved
This large German study found that only a quarter of the 216 new drugs that came on the market between 2011 and 2017 actually offered some additional benefit.
For nearly 60 percent of the drugs, researchers found no added benefit over the standard of care. And for 16 percent, the benefit was so small it wasn’t even quantifiable—in other words, they brought absolutely nothing new to the table.
Psychiatric drugs fared the worst, with only six percent demonstrating any notable added benefit. (New diabetes drugs didn’t perform so well either, with only 17 percent offering anything new of value.)
This raises the question, of course… why, exactly, are all these redundant drugs being made in the first place?
Well, I can tell you right now that most doctors won’t ask this question when they’re being bribed by drug companies. But maybe just showing some additional benefit should be a requirement for approval.
That would certainly be a great place to start. But it would also require our government to prioritize patients over big business and lobbyists. And, well… I wouldn’t expect to see that happen anytime soon.
As it stands, regulators are just fine with placebo-controlled studies, even when—in these cases, at least—active controlled trials offer a better idea of a new drug’s relative value.
In fact, of this study’s 125 drugs with insufficient proof of added benefit, less than half had even one trial that put it head-to-head against similar drugs currently in use.
Just over 40 did have comparison studies, but ones that used inappropriate comparators. (For example, they might have used off-label, or at unconventional dosages.)
Meanwhile, the ones that did pit the new drugs against the standard of care simply didn’t demonstrate any advantage.
When patients become consumers
I probably don’t have to explain, but… here’s why all of this is a problem.
Most drugs receive approval under the condition that their manufacturers will deliver comparative studies in the future. But it should surprise no one to hear that this usually doesn’t happen.
And just like Big Pharma gets a pass on adverse event reports, this is another case where we consumers wind up completely at their mercy.
Sure, it would be nice if regulators actually expected Big Pharma to live up to its promises—and perhaps threatened them with sanctions for not completing post-marketing studies, or made active controlled trials mandatory.
Because in a healthcare system actually designed to deliver affordable, high-quality care—and not one that commodifies illness—the FDA would work with pharmaceutical companies to make sure that the drugs they’re churning out are actually necessary. (And not just thinly veiled attempts to cash in on chronic disease.)
In fact, that’s exactly what they do in the U.K.—the National Health Service (NHS) won’t use any medicines or vaccines that aren’t actually worth the money they cost. And if a new drug isn’t at least 80 percent better than what’s currently out there? Well, it won’t even make it past the gate.
So why can’t we do that here in the U.S.? Well, we could. But who’s going to make any money off of that?
Profit-hungry American medicine always prioritizes “consumer freedom” over patient care. But conveniently, only when it pads Big Pharma’s bottom line. So if you want to be a savvy patient and consumer?
Just say no to drugs in the first place.
P.S. I often discuss the dangers of drugs with my readers. And in the June 2012 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The top 5 drugs I love to hate”), I discuss just how dangerous prescriptions drugs can be. Subscribers have access to this and all of my past content in the archives—and they stay current on all of the latest health news. So if you haven’t already, consider signing up today. All it takes is one click!
“Most New Drugs Show No Evidence of Added Benefit.” Medscape Medical News, 07/18/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/915796)