Despite a consistent stream of new pharmaceuticals coming on to the market, it seems that drugs are less effective now than 40 years ago. This is despite the $50 billion that has been poured into producing new drugs since the mid-2000s.
A recently published report shows that the effectiveness of drugs has plummeted – based on the comparison between patients taking the real thing and those being given a placebo. This is a trend that has been happening since the 1970s. While already a significant blow to pharmaceutical companies, it could be a lot worse with the introduction of President Obama’s new healthcare law.
An independent research institute was setup as a result of this law to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for the same condition. These independent trials allow private insurers and government programs such as Medicare to stop paying for drugs that are less effective now than 40 years ago.
These older drugs are likely to be “generics”, which are often cheaper than the expensive brand names that currently deliver the most profits to drugmakers.
There are still drugs being developed that make big changes such as Gleevec, from Novartis, that greatly extends the life of leukaemia patients. More stringent trials would mean these breakthrough drugs still make it to market, but those that are merely a reboot could struggle to get approval.
Some think that drugs are less effective now compared with 40 years ago because patients are getting harder to treat. Clinical trial volunteers being those that haven’t been able to find a cure for their condition elsewhere so far.
Regardless, there are still proponents of this more stringent system that hope it will lead to a resurgence in cheaper drugs that are just as, if not more effective than those with a bigger marketing budget.
Have you got any experience with drugs being less effective now than they were 40 years ago?
Image: Purple Penning via Flickr