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Are Newer Drugs Any Better Than Older Ones?

A skewed business model perpetuated by the drug companies -- one that pushes highly promoted new drugs that offer few if any new benefits over older products -- took a big hit, thanks to a study of schizophrenia drugs published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine (free text link below).

Researchers compared the merits of five atypical antipsychotic drugs, including four new drugs and the older perphenazine. All five drugs worked, according to the study, but 75 percent of some 1,500 patients scientists monitored eventually stopped taking them after suffering from discomfort or side effects, a factor rarely considered in drug company-sponsored research.

Here's the kicker: Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, one of those newer drugs, performed better than all the other drugs evaluated in the study, but also caused the most side effects, including diabetes (something I warned you about three years ago).

The exorbitantly high costs of newer drugs over older ones -- another shell game perpetuated by the drug companies to keep their coffers flush with cash -- was in full view as well, considering the average cost of a month's supply of perphenazine is $60 versus $520 for Zyprexa.

If you're wondering why these results sound logical and rational, yet so downbeat for the mega-drug companies, there's a good reason: This rigorous drug trial was financed largely by the government, with few connections to the drug industry.

New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 353, No. 12, September 22, 2005: 1209-1223 Free Full Text Article

New York Times September 20, 2005 Registration Required

Spartanburg Herald-Journal September 20, 2005

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