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Prescrire looks back at 2009: too little improvement and too many backward steps

The results of Prescrire's wrap-up of new drugs reviewed in 2009 are meagre and worrying.

Prescrire's 2009 medicines review reveals a disappointing lack of therapeutic improvements for patients and a disproportionate quantity of drugs to be avoided.

Among the 104 new drugs or new indications analysed in 2009 by Prescrire, only 3 offer some level of improvement and rank "offers an advantage"; 14 are "possibly helpful"; 62 offer "nothing new" and on 6 "judgement is reserved"; 19 have been rated "not acceptable" due to the disproportionate risks they represent for patients: the market needs an overhaul.

Quality is lacking in remedies sold over the counter: too often these are not the best treatment options; and the emphasis on brand names to the detriment of the international nonproprietary name (INN) can result in confusion.

The European and French drug regulatory agencies remain financially over-dependent on the pharmaceutical companies which makes them reluctant to make decisions on withdrawing drugs with an unfavourable risk-benefit balance from the market. They also fail to provide transparent information on drugs' adverse effects.

Other worrying issues: too often the price of a drug bears no relation to the level of therapeutic improvement it offers; some patient groups are too dependent on pharmaceutical companies; the European Commission is proposing to deregulate the communication on prescription drugs to the public.

Healthcare professionals and users of the healthcare system need to pool their efforts and lobby the regulatory agencies to face up to their responsibilities vis-à-vis the pharmaceuticals companies.

©Prescrire April 2010

"A look back at 2009: one step forward, two steps back" Prescrire Int 2010; 19 (106): 89-94 (pdf, free).

Download the full review