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Drugs: going back to essentials

It is increasingly rare that new drugs offer patients tangible improvements. But older, tried-and-tested essential drugs with a favourable risk-benefit balance continue to fulfil a wide range of needs. {{The Prescrire Drug Awards and a look back at 2008 are available online.}}

In 2008, for the first time since the Prescrire Drug Awards began in 1981, no Pilule d’Or (“Golden Pill”) was awarded and no drugs were added to the Honours List. Three drugs were singled out as being “noteworthy”, but these are based on substances that have been known for decades.

This is a clear signal that new drugs are not synonymous with improved care. What is to be done? Of course the authorities must be relentlessly pushed to fulfil their task of supervising pharmaceutical companies, including research activities, and urged to refocus on clinically pertinent issues in the knowledge that an overhaul will take years to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, on the day-to-day level, it is a question of demystifying new drugs and going back to essential drugs which may be old, even very old, but which are still appropriate. And to seize every opportunity to put drugs back in their rightful place, with restraint and ambition. With restraint, as drugs are often of secondary importance in the prevention and treatment of numerous ailments. With ambition, for when a drug is useful, it is vital to be thoroughly aware of its limitations and to make the best use of its benefits.

Well-informed patients and healthcare professionals applying these principles are in a position to make the best use of the available treatment options.

©Prescrire May 2009

Source: "Redécouvrir l'essentiel", Rev Prescrire 2009; 29 (304): 81.

- Click here for Prescrire's 2008 Drug Awards and a look back at the notable trends and events for the year.

- Click here to read Prescrire's Position "Back to basics".

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