Are You Going to Take That New Drug Your Doctor is Offerring?

The amount of money that goes into marketing new drugs is astounding. The goal is to produce a “blockbuster” drug that will bring in billions of dollars to the company.

Think Prosac, Celebrex / Vioxx, Neurontin, Lipitor, Premarin, Avandia or Fosamax.  These drugs have generated untold billions of dollars of profit for their respective companies.

However, far too often these drugs are promoted with much fanfare, but when the dust settles, patients are left looking around, short of the promised benefits and maybe even their lives.  Vioxx alone was believed to be responsible for 100,000 + heart attacks, but not until years after the drug was released and the whistleblowers pulled back the curtain and the hidden data was forced to be released via court order.

But, as the consumer, we rely on our doctors to act in our best interests.  Unfortunately, research has proven that physicians are very susceptible to marketing and financial incentives from the drug companies.  That leaves you to decipher whether the recommendations for a new drug from your doctor are based on fact or hype.

Luckily, in this particular article, some very smart researchers came up with some things to look for to tell if maybe you should pass on your doctors recommendation when it comes to a new drug. The authors suggest some guidelines to evaluate whether a new drug is likely to be of benefit.

Basically, the harder it is pushed, the less likely you will actually receive a benefit and the more likely that drug is to be pulled off the market in the future. These are the things to watch out for:

  1. Reducing thresholds for diagnosing disease (in other words, we’re going to medicate your bone density in osteopenia rather than osteoporotic)
  2. Relying on surrogate endpoints (studies looking at lowering cholesterol rather than lowering rates of heart attacks)
  3. Exaggerating safety claims (It was only 5% of the study participants that had their penis fall off…)
  4. Exaggerating efficacy claims (95% of study participants saw a reduction in their cholesterol)
  5. Creating new diseases (Heard the latest ads for Shift Work Disorder??)
  6. Encouraging unapproved uses (Neurontin / gabapentin was dinged for millions in fines for promoting non-approved uses)

Very interesting. Does this sound like anything you’re taking or that you have seen a commercial for?


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.