Hearing voices?

Well, if you are, it turns out that older (and much, much cheaper) anti-psychotic medication is just as effective as the newer, more expensive medications.  The key facts from the Washington Post story:

Schizophrenia patients do as well, or perhaps even better, on older
psychiatric drugs compared with newer and far costlier medications,
according to a study published yesterday that overturns conventional
wisdom about antipsychotic drugs, which cost the United States $10
billion a year….

Yesterday, in an editorial accompanying the British study, the lead
researcher in the U.S. trial asked how an entire medical field could
have been misled into thinking that the expensive drugs, such as
Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel, were much better.

“The claims of
superiority for the [newer drugs] were greatly exaggerated,” wrote
Columbia University psychiatrist Jeffrey Lieberman. “This may have been
encouraged by an overly expectant community of clinicians and patients
eager to believe in the power of new medications. At the same time, the
aggressive marketing of these drugs may have contributed to this
enhanced perception of their effectiveness in the absence of empirical
” (emphasis mine)

In short, the use of newer drugs was driven by a simplistic assumption that newer must be better and an aggressive marketing campaign.  Isn't it nice to know that this how doctors make decisions on what medicines to treat you with. 

Why did it take so long to discover that these drugs are not any more effective?  There's no money in it.  When pharmaceutical companies introduce a new drug, they simply need to prove that it is more effective than a placebo (a pretty low standard) and does not have dangerous side effects.  There's no money to be made in testing your drug against existing competition and finding out that it is actually no more effective.  For example, if you've ever used Claritin and noticed its pathetic efficacy, this is due to the fact that their goal was simply to be better than a placebo and not cause any drowsiness.  Mission accomplished– of course you'll still be sneezing plenty.  To actually have a truly effective dose, they would have to admit to some drowsiness– bye-bye “Claritin clear.”  The whole crazy world of the mis-use and mis-marketing of pharmaceuticals makes for truly engaging reading in John Abramson's Overdosed America. 

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