A new drug is always better. Right?

Wrong.  Here’s 3 reasons why an older drug might be better:

  1. An older drug has a longer track record.  Doctors, as well as their patients, have had more time to report side effects.  

  2. A newer drug has only been tested on a small groups of people - who generally don’t have other diseases or take other medications.  The average number of patients for a clinical trial is 450.  Older drugs have generally been prescribed to many more people with more disease and on other medications.

  3. “Breakthrough” or “innovative” treatment might work differently than the alternatives.  However, there is no guarantee that different is better. Many drugs are approved because they are as good as the affordable generic already available.

The upshot:  The newer a drug is, the less we know about how well it works on real-world patients; there is uncertainty about its potential impact.  Next time you are thinking of switching to the newest medication on the market, be sure and ask your doctor about these issues.

See the data behind your drugs at DrugFactsBox.co, available now in beta. 


Karen Lubell

Karen Lubell is a writer living in the Hanover, NH area. She holds degrees from Dartmouth College as well as New York University, where she taught writing while pursuing doctoral work in English Literature. She has worked as a writer and researcher in many different fields, including a stint at the New York Times as the language researcher for William Safire. Her special interest in the health sciences began four years ago with a health scare, which led her to the work of Drs. Schwartz and Woloshin. She is very excited to be a part of the Informulary team, and help with their mission to make data about prescription accessible to all. She lives in Norwich, Vermont with her husband, two children, and one very old cat.