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Bob Carroll
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Are New Drugs Worth The Price Or Risk?

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Two new drug studies may explain why we are spending lots more on new drugs and not getting any better.

According to one study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, total U.S. spending on medical research has doubled in the past decade, nearing $95 billion a year. But we’re not seeing the results we might expect.

A second study comparing schizophrenia drugs has found that an older medication, perphenazine, is as effective at managing the devastating brain disorder as most of the newer, more-expensive drugs.

My observation would be that the reported side effects from the so-called “newer, more-expensive drugs” have been significant. At a cost running 5 to 10 times more than the older drug, does this really benefit anyone other than the drug companies?

Two new drug studies may explain why we are spending lots more on new drugs and not getting any better.

According to one study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, total U.S. spending on medical research has doubled in the past decade, nearing $95 billion a year. But we’re not seeing the results we might expect.

A second study comparing schizophrenia drugs has found that an older medication, perphenazine, is as effective at managing the devastating brain disorder as most of the newer, more-expensive drugs.

The findings of the first study include: “Despite the increased funding, the study’s researchers question how the money is being spent.”

“There aren’t a lot of diseases where we can point to say we have an answer today that we didn’t have a decade ago,” Dr. Hamilton Moses, one of the study’s researchers, said in a news release. “It raises the question, of course: Are we getting our money’s worth? Are we capturing the full value of that significant investment?”

“Of the total spending, 60 percent comes from drug and medical companies and 35 percent comes from the federal goverment. The remaining 5 percent comes from foundations and charities as well as from state and local governments, the researchers said.”

“Moses said it’s understandable that the industry — drug and medical companies — is pouring in the most money, considering that such businesses are investing in their futures.” [“Investing in their futures” is a polite way to say that they are seeking new patents to replace the ones that expire.]

The second study notes that “Olanzapine [a new drug]…costs about $600 a month at higher doses, compared with $50 a month for perphenazine. Sales of antipsychotics in the United States total about $10 billion a year.”

“Starting in 1999, the federally funded trial enrolled more than 1,400 adults at 57 sites around the country. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either the older drug perphenazine or one of four atypicals: olanzapine (brand name Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal) or ziprasidone (Geodon).”

“At the dosages chosen, perphenazine was equally as effective as quetiapine, risperidone and ziprasidone, as defined by how long patients stayed on the drugs, the study found.”

My observation would be that the reported side effects from the so-called “newer, more-expensive drugs” have been significant. At a cost running 5 to 10 times more than the older drug, does this really benefit anyone other than the drug companies?