US Professor Donald Light has claimed that pharmaceutical companies have over-hyped the benefits and under-played the adverse side effects of their drugs.

It is reported in the Telegraph [1] that Prof Light, a sociologist and professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, claims that a new ‘market for lemons’ has been created by this practice.

"Sometimes drug companies hide or downplay information about serious side-effects of new drugs and overstate the drugs' benefits. Then, they spend two to three times more on marketing than on research to persuade doctors to prescribe these new drugs. Doctors may get misleading information and then misinform patients about the risks of a new drug. It's really a two-tier market for lemons." He said.

Prof Light then went further and said that this had become “the most dangerous market for lemons in modern society” and that deaths caused by wars and second hand cars did not come close to those caused by this new trade.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has rejected the professor’s claims saying they are “long on accusation and short on hard evidence”.

The professor points at statins as one of the cases in point. He said that the drugs industry had reduced the whole case for them down to the lowest common denominator of ‘cholesterol kills’ (there is ‘good’ cholesterol too remember) and marketed statins as the answer when trials do not show that statins reduce the risk of heart attacks.

The professor says that trials are not rigorous enough and that as a result "these new drugs of little benefit consume about four-fifths of all drug costs." But the ABPI claim that with ever increasing transparency over trials things are improving and new medicines being identified that save lives.

I’d rather not be in the position of needing a pill to do what my own body can do given the right conditions. For my money, the best way forward for general health is to get people eating proper natural food and following a regime of exercise and physical activity. I bet that would reduce most peoples’ ‘bad’ cholesterol levels a lot and cut down on the nation’s health problems.


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