Unlike the latest iPhone, with drugs we cannot assume that newer is better. At least not when it comes to prescription drugs. Most people know that drug companies must perform studies to make sure a new drug is safe before FDA approval. However, these studies – known as clinical trials – typically only last between a few months to a year. In addition, most of these trials usually involve small numbers of subjects. The median number of patients in these trials is 450, which is relatively small compared to the number of people that will eventually take most medications. Because the studies involve small numbers of people over a relatively short period of time, important side effects may not be reported until large numbers of people use the drug for a longer period of time.
SHORT TRACK RECORD
In reality, the newer a drug is to the market, the less we know about its potential harms and benefits. So, in fact, the newer a drug is, the more uncertainty about its potential impact upon real-world patients. A clear picture of the possible side effects do not emerge until long after the FDA approves a medicine, when more people have taken the drug over a longer period of time.
“WORKS IN A NEW WAY”
It’s especially important to pay attention to track record when a drug comes on the market that works in a “new” way. “Newness” is often used as a way of promoting these drugs in advertisements - but this kind of “newness” also means there is extra uncertainty. Exciting new drugs may not end up working as well as drugs that have been in use for years - and their side effects may even be worse.
LONG TRACK RECORD
An older drug, on the other hand, one that has been on the market for more than 5-7 years, has a long track record. There has been more time for the public and their health-care providers to report side effects. Thus, an older drug that has the same benefits as a newer one may be a better choice in some cases. The truth is that we simply cannot know for certain until the new drug has proven itself over time.
With the DrugFactsBox, you can easily find out how long a medicine has been on the market, together with other crucial data about the drug. You'll have access to the same information regarding clinical trials that is available to the FDA. With reliable facts at your fingertips, you can work with your doctor to make the best choice for you and your family.
Want to learn more on how to use the DrugFactsBox™? Read on or subscribe to be invited to our beta trial when we launch the DrugFactsBox™.
For more on new drugs that work in a new way, check out our DrugFactsBox in Consumer Reports' latest piece on BELSOMRA for insomnia.