Leading Article: Old medicine is good medicine

Share
Related Topics
Go into any surgery and you can hardly miss the pressures that doctors are under from drug companies. On the walls will be a calendar bearing the logo of the latest wonder cure. Look around and there will be paperweights, notepads, pens, pencil holders, mugs, perhaps a briefcase and even an umbrella - all pushing drugs. Doctors no longer have to thumb through a thick tome to prescribe a treatment: they just have to open their eyes to their surroundings.

Yet many of these drugs, though tested, remain a relative mystery. We report today, for example, that a group of top-selling drugs may in fact increase the risk of a heart attack in some patients. Although more research is necessary, the study suggests that the drugs, which include the popular nifedipine (also known as Adalat) may give some users a 60 per cent higher risk of heart attack than older and cheaper alternatives. This is particularly worrying because established treatments are rapidly being discarded in favour of more fashionable drugs, thanks to the barrage of publicity to which doctors are subjected.

We cannot know all the effects of a drug until it has been prescribed for many years. Only then can we be sure of its efficacy, success in reducing mortality and what side-effects may accompany its use. So, although the drug companies want doctors to prescribe expensive, newer formulas, the best interests of patients may not be served by having the latest treatment. Equally, the costs to the NHS may be unnecessarily inflated by the prescription of drugs that may be no better than those already available.

Drug companies will attack suggestions that further constraints should be placed on their innovations and profitability. But the dangers of using too many new drugs are clear. No one expected that taking Thalidomide would lead to deformed babies: that side-effect was discovered too late for too many. The widespread use of new antibiotics poses a different problem. The more they are prescribed, the more quickly will bacteria become resistant to them, so reducing the limited arsenal that we have against increasingly dangerous bugs.

The answer is for doctors to resist pressure from drug companies and remember that familiarity has its own rewards. But it is also time that the NHS followed Norway's example and laid out a strict national formulary of drugs that offer good value for money and have a long record of safety and effectiveness. Britain has already moved some way in this direction by limiting the number of drugs doctors can prescribe. But pressure from the pharmaceutical lobby has prevented more robust measures. This latest research should prompt a rethink. We should not be afraid to buck the fashion for new drugs. It is up to the suppliers to prove their products hold no hidden threat.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms