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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 9988

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Mintzes B, Lexchin J.
Do higher drug costs lead to better health?
Can J Clin Pharmacol 2005 Win; 12:(1):e22-7


Prescription drugs are the fastest growing healthcare cost in Canada. Increased spending is mainly due to use of newer, more expensive medicines and a higher overall volume of prescription drug use. In the large majority of cases, empirical studies fail to support claims of a net benefit to health. Newer high-priced drugs are neither consistently safer nor more effective than older alternatives. Over 2000 new drugs and indications introduced in France from 1981-2000 were compared to existing treatments: 81% offered little to no added value and 3% were less safe or effective. In Canada, only 5% of drugs introduced from 1996-2000 offered substantial improvement to therapy. Claims linking use of newer drugs to reduced hospitalization and mortality fail to distinguish between underlying differences in disease severity and treatment outcomes. For “newer” to truly mean “better”, fundamental changes are needed to the regulations governing market approval and post-approval surveillance. Such changes are possible, but would require strong political will.

Publication Types: Comment Editorial MeSH Terms: Canada Drug Approval/legislation & jurisprudence Drug Costs/trends* Drug Utilization/economics Health Expenditures/trends* Humans Prescriptions, Drug/economics Product Surveillance, Postmarketing Quality of Health Care/trends*


Comment on:
Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2005 Winter;12(1):e10-21.


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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909