Getting a new car or camera model is often equated to pills as well…that the newer version is an improvement over the old. But experience has taught doctors that this is not necessarily true..especially when it comes to medications.
While drug pharmas may go to town extolling the virtues of their new drug releases (which they claim to have undergone extensive research and FDA-approved), it is easy for doctors and the public to be swayed by these promises and switch to the new. Some doctors know this can sometimes backfire. For instance, newer meds have a shorter track record of usage, sometimes not enough for side-effects to appear which escaped scrutiny during the drug trial period. After prolonged use, previously-undetected side-effects can surface which may even lead to eventual withdrawal of the drug from the market.
A case in point: at the ongoing American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in Orlando, Florida, November 2011, it was revealed that a popular anti-cholesterol medication Crestor was not significantly better than the older more popular Lipitor that it intended to replace, in terms of reversing cholesterol blockages in arteries.
For the makers of Crestor, AstraZeneca, this is a double-blow: it had sponsored the clinical trial to demonstrate its superiority over its rival(the SATURN trial). Now that this failed to materialise, it is going to find it tougher to market its drug once its rival loses its patent rights this month.(This means bona fide pharmas can produce non-branded versions, aka generic types, which are considerably cheaper.)
This is of course good news to consumers who now can buy generic Lipitor, at a fraction of the price before, knowing full well that they will not lose benefits extolled by the newer ones. My take-home message though, is that none of the pills are going to work well if one does not incorporate it with change in life-style habits..
- Astra’s Crestor Is Comparable to Lipitor in Study (online.wsj.com)
Those familiar with the ongoing debate whether to ban a popular anti-diabetes drug for potentially dangerous side-effects are mostly wondering why its taking the authorities so long to put a ban on it.
Glaxo’s Avandia, also known as roziglitazone, has been blamed by research studies as far back as 2007 to cause heart problems when taken by diabetic patients, but attempts to ban it have been painfully slow. While the FDA acknowledged that the drug led to a higher incidence of heart attacks since 2007, its advisory panel in July this year stopped short of banning it with a split decision.
Health advocates have mounted a strong campaign against Avandia, saying its risks outweigh its benefit. Even a conspiracy theory has emerged – the New York Times this week published documents that it said showed SmithKlineBeecham – the firm’s name in 1999 – buried a disastrous study that suggested Avandia posed greater heart risks than a competing drug. Has Big Pharma managed to buy out the regulators?
Across the Atlantic, the story is clearer – the UK watchdog authority has called today for the withdrawal of this drug across Europe.(here).
And the irony of it all..while we have a diabetic drug that can cause heart attacks, we also have a heart drug (Crestor) that can cause diabetes!
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In a decision which raised the eyebrow of many doctors as well as patients, a popular cholesterol pill Crestor (rosuvastatin) has now been approved by the US FDA for use in healthy people with normal cholesterol…well, not just anybody, but for those with all of the following 3 features: increasing age + high CRP + one traditional risk factor (either smoking, high blood pressure, positive family history, low HDL-cholesterol).
In a recent bulletin, the FDA took pains to say that this was based on a clinical study (the Jupiter Trial) which showed that those who took Crestor for two years experienced less heart attacks, strokes and needed fewer heart operations.
Even so, a few cardiologists, including yours truly, have some trepidation in unreservedly recommending Crestor for such people with normal cholesterol. In the first place, no amount of medication is going to substitute for adopting a healthy lifestyle (in other words, regular exercise,proper dieting, weight reduction and getting rid of the fags). Both need to go hand in hand in order to achieve any benefit.
The other downside in taking these pills is the risk of side-effects, most notably generalised muscle and joint pains and..listen up, you men..poor erection! Yes, many patients feel shy to bring this up with their doctor but it seems to be more common than reported. The good thing about this problem is that its “business as usual” once the pills are withdrawn. Recently, news reports have even implied that statins (like Crestor) can lead to diabetes.
There are many who suspect that promoting this use of Crestor is big pharma’s way of enhancing sales in these troubled times..not to mention giving private insurance companies a valid reason for raising your premiums because you’re on medications.
The issue sure is getting more complicated nowadays; with a diabetes drug supposed to cause heart attacks (Avandia) and conversely, a heart attack drug that may cause diabetes (Crestor) !! If its any indication, 4 of the 12 members in the FDA Drug Committee objected to this new indication for its use..
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