Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Unbiased Sources for Prescription Drug Info

Suppose your heartburn is acting up lately and your antacids just aren't cutting it. You visit a doctor for it. He/she happens to have some Nexium (the purple pill) samples and gives you a few saying, "Try these, this drug is more expensive than the other proton pump inhibitors, but it's also a little more effective." The purple pill with three neat little yellow stripes on it works like magic--your heartburn disappears completely. So, you get a prescription for it and order it at your local Walgreens. The one-month supply runs you a whopping $193. You think, "well, hey, it works wonders, I've never slept better. It's worth it."

Why do so many people prefer the purple pill? It's ALL marketing. They've simply taken the cheaper, equally effective OTC PPI named Prilosec (omeprazole, $19-26 for 1 mo.) and found a way to purify it differently so that the final product only contains the active form (they call it esomeprazole), and not its inactive enantiomeric mirror image. In other words, they're the SAME drug with different names. Their elegant studies show a slightly higher effectiveness with Nexium vs. Prilosec while other studies show no difference. More than half of the $193 per month you pay for Nexium goes directly into marketing for Nexium. This is the main reason it costs so much!

If you had taken a few minutes to visit (consumer reports for drugs), you would've realized that you were spending TEN TIMES more than you needed to for this medication!

This situation is based on a visit with a patient that I had last week. A single working mother who was most likely on Medicaid, and she swore that the only thing that works for her heartburn is Nexium. So I asked, "Well, have you tried Prilosec?" She hadn't.

In summary: Why do we need unbiased sources?
  • Doctors are influenced ... even if you don't think so
  • Drug reps are factually inaccurate
  • Articles funded by drug companies show bias
  • Most Continuing Medical Education (for doctors) publications and seminars are sponsored by drug companies, and the data presented is often biased and skewed.
The source I recommend for the everyday consumer:
  • Consumer Union Best Buy Drugs -- This website fills a gap in the public's knowledge about the effectiveness and safety of prescription drugs and how drugs given for a particular illness compare with each other. It gives patients a better idea about how much drugs cost, including the comparative value of various drugs, with condensed and long reports.
More 100% unbiased sources:
Info regarding the pharm industry's interactions with physicians:
Post Sources:

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