Drug companies have been accused of conning the public by hyping up patented medicines with little new to offer while downplaying their side-effects.
A study concluded that up to 85 per cent of new drugs offered few if any new benefits while having the potential to cause serious harm due to toxicity or misuse.
The author of the research, Donald Light, professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, said: “Sometimes drug companies hide or downplay information about serious side-effects of new drugs and overstate the drugs’ benefits. Then, they spend two to three times more on marketing than on research to persuade doctors to prescribe these new drugs. Doctors may get misleading information and then misinform patients about the risks of a new drug.”
Professor Light presented his paper, entitled “Pharmaceuticals: A Two-Tier Market for Producing ‘Lemons’ and Serious Harm”, yesterday at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
The study includes data from independent reviewers which suggest that 85 per cent of new drugs provide few, if any, new benefits. Hyping a drug began with clinical trials designed to minimise evidence of harm and published literature that emphasised its advantages, said Professor Light.