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The Prescrire Awards for 2012

The 2012 Prescrire Awards: a yearly round-up from the editors of independent French journal Prescrire

Towards better patient care: drugs to avoid

  • Common sense dictates that one should choose tried and tested drugs with proven, concrete benefits that outweigh their adverse effects.
  • Many new drugs are approved each year, often despite a lack of solid evidence that they are any better than existing treatments. Worse, some are approved despite being less effective or more harmful than current options. Massive promotion is used to ensure that such drugs achieve a positive image in the eyes of healthcare professionals and patients. Renowned "opinion leaders" intervene in their favour at conferences and in specialist media, and their opinions are further propagated by specialists in the field. Finally, campaigns in the lay media are used to highlight the target illness, encouraging patients to request a prescription.
  • New data sometimes show that older, initially promising drugs are less effective or more harmful than first thought.
  • For all these reasons, many drugs that are now present on the market are more harmful than beneficial and should be avoided.
  • Unfortunately, negative assessment data and warnings are often drowned in the flood of promotion and advertising. Front-line healthcare professionals who are determined to act in their patients' best interests can find themselves swimming against a tide of specialist opinion, marketing authorisation, and reimbursement decisions.
  • By leaving drugs that are more harmful than beneficial on the market and contenting themselves with simple half-measures, healthcare authorities are failing in their duty to protect patients.
  • Prescrire, a journal funded solely by its subscribers, does not seek to do the work of health authorities, and does not have the means to do so. Prescrire's goal is simply to help healthcare professionals provide better care. The following text lists the principal drugs that we consider more harmful than beneficial, based on our reviews published between 2010 and 2012 in our French edition. These drugs should not be used.
  • Patients and healthcare professionals should reassess ongoing treatments and, if necessary, replace these drugs with proven treatments. Without waiting for the authorities to remove them from the market in a timely manner, as the accumulation of data showing that they are more harmful than beneficial would require.

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©Prescrire April 2013

"Towards better patient care: drugs to avoid" Prescrire Int 2013; 22 (137): 108-111 (pdf, free)