For most Americans, new drugs equal better drugs

A U.S. survey brings good news to marketers of branded drugs--if not for those paying healthcare bills. When it comes to drugs, people prefer the new to the old, a nationwide survey of almost 3,000 adults found, even if they're told the older meds are equally effective.

Researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the VA Outcomes Group presented two scenarios to respondents. The first involved two heartburn drugs, one new and one old, equally effective and both free. Only 34% of people chose the older drug. But if the question was accompanied by a warning that side effects of new drugs may take time to emerge, more than half picked the old medication.

Maybe respondents preferred new drugs partly because they also think FDA-approved drugs have proven themselves safer and more effective than they might be. One-fourth of the respondents said the FDA only approves drugs that don't have serious side effects. Almost 40% said that only "extremely effective" drugs can win the FDA's nod

But as study co-author Steven Woloshin told Reuters Health, FDA approval "just means that the benefits are judged to be greater than the harms. It doesn't mean that they're big and important." Furthermore, "[n]ew often just means we know less about it...because it takes time for a drug to establish its track record," he added. Woloshin advocates simpler, more straightforward info for patients about drugs to help them make more informed choices.

- see the Reuters news