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A new prescription for drug labels

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Let's say you have high blood pressure and that during your most recent clinic visit, your doctor prescribes the newest calcium-channel blocker. You've seen commercials for it, and you are eager to give the new drug a try.

Then you get to the pharmacy and find out that, because it's new, your insurance company has set your co-pay for the drug at $100 per prescription. And then you read the materials that come with the medication, and you see this statement: "Although this drug has been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively than placebo, it has not been shown to be more effective than other members of the same drug class."

Would you want to keep shelling out $100 a month for it? I wouldn't. At least, not until I had proof that that this drug was better at treating my high blood pressure than any of the other treatments on the market.

It's just this kind of labeling that a trio of School of Medicine researchers is advocating. In an essay published online Aug. 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require drug manufacturers to state how new medications compare with similar, existing treatments.

In many instance, these statements would indicate that there is no evidence that a new drug is more effective than older ones. They believe this information would make patients and health-care insurers less likely to pay for newer treatments without evidence that they lead to improved patient outcomes.

Here's the news release I wrote about their essay.

Photo by Bitzi

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