Three Longs & Three Shorts

Save on Drug Costs! Ditch Useless Pills !

Author: Faye Flam
Source: Bloomberg (
It turns out that most of the drugs we pay for don’t actually work very well. To make matters worse, they actually have negative side effects! “Buried among the mediocre drugs are a few that do add years of life or alleviate significant suffering. Clarifying which ones really are lifesavers – such as insulin, drugs for HIV and hepatitis C – would help get those drugs to the people who need them, and help spare everyone from unnecessary medication.”
There is also growing evidence regarding the power of pharma companies to promote needless drug use. Data from America shows “The number of prescriptions being written has tripled in the last 15 years, but this has not been matched by a tripling of the number of miracle cures and magic bullets. How are we consumers to know which drugs we really need? Drug companies skew statistics and market heavily to make their products sound much safer and more effective than they really are…Many products that are heavily advertised are overrated. The drug industry spends approximately $30 billion a year on marketing. Ad campaigns can “raise public awareness” of problems that were essentially invented to sell drugs. Consider the blockbuster eye drop Restasis, which has very little effect on anyone’s eyes. Ad campaigns scared people into thinking they had “dry eye syndrome” and risked”. Another popular campaign convinced healthy men to take testosterone by raising awareness of “Low-T of aging,” though the risks of taking the drug are likely to outweigh benefits for those without certain health conditions.”
So how does the pharma industry promote needless use of drugs? Answer: wine & dine doctors. “Some of that $30 billion marketing money goes to influencing physicians. Many receive generous speaking fees, are taken on junkets, or are named “influencers” and treated to fancy dinners and luxurious hotels. Psychologists who study conflicts of interest have shown how this has an insidious effect: Doctors think they are not being influenced by their industry benefactors, but they do prescribe more of those companies’ drugs. The press can also boost marketing by parroting statistics put out by industry press releases, some of which are true but misleading. In “Doctoring Data,” physician Malcolm Kendrick shows how a study can be spun to suggest a drug will save 50,000 lives, but the same data can be read to say that of 200 people taking the drug, 199 will get no benefit and the other one will live only several months longer. The more impressive number of “saved” lives is derived from assuming that millions of people will take the drug and that a couple of extra months counts as a saved life. Such calculations often fail to note that giving drugs to that many people often causes more harm, through side effects, than good.”


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