Sunday, September 16, 2012

Useless drugs

This is the sort of story that makes us Institutionalists nod sagely.  It turns out that when it comes to drugs, the French and we have many of the same problems.  This might seem counterintuitive.  After all, the French have what many low-information voters would call "socialized" medicine and we have the purest for-profit schemes imaginable.  Yet this seeming "huge" difference is overwhelmed by the similarities such as: There is a finite number of ills that drugs can actually treat effectively; or, Doctors everywhere are seduced by the same claims for a drug's effectiveness; or, Patients in pain will demand their doctors "do something" even if there really is nothing that can be done.

The first story is from RT and the second from the Guardian.  There isn't much difference between them but the similarity is that both seem somewhat surprised that two top members of the French state medical bureaucracy would come out swinging against drugs that most doctors around the world consider standards (such as statins).  I am especially impressed that they came to a conclusion I hold which is that drug making is “the most lucrative, most cynical and least ethical of all the industries.” (Note: at least it's still an industry!  Of course, if 50% of their output is useless, they must have passed some bar for membership in the Leisure Classes.)

50 percent of France’s drugs ‘useless’ – top French doctors

14 September, 2012

Half of France’s drugs are ‘useless’ and five percent are dangerous, a book by two top French doctors claimed. The duo believes the pharmaceutical industry is forcing ineffective drugs on the market, costing taxpayers up to ten billion euros a year.

The duo reviewed 4,000 French drugs and found that 50 percent were ‘useless,’ 20 percent were ‘badly tolerated’ and five percent had adverse effects.

Philippe Even, former head of the Necker Hospital in Paris, and Bernard Debré, doctor and member of parliament for the UMP party, recently co-authored a book titled The Guide to 4,000 Useful, Useless or Dangerous Medicines.

The book claimed that France could save up to ten billion euros a year by halting social security reimbursements for drugs that are hazardous or have no health value.

The pharmaceutical industry is “the most lucrative, most cynical and least ethical of all the industries,” Dr. Even said. He claims that in order to reduce budget shortfalls in France’s healthcare system, “one simply has to take the dangerous, useless and ineffective medicines off the market.”

The book was written in light of a Mediator Affaire report Dr. Even and Dr. Debré conducted in 2011 for former President Nicolas Sarkozy, where they investigated an incident where some 2,000 people were killed by a prescribed diabetic drug before the medicine was taken off the market.

Their report stated that the French medical system was in dire need of reform, spurring Dr. Even and Dr. Debré to write their book.

The two made a list of drugs that pose health risks, including cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and anti-smoking drugs, and contraceptive pills.

Statins, drugs taken to lower cholesterol, were just one of the many drugs found to be “completely useless,” Dr. Even said in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur. “[Statins] are taken by three to five million French people, which costs France two million euros per year.”

According to 2011 study, France is the world’s fifth-largest market for pharmaceuticals, with the average French person having 47 pills and prescriptions in their medical cabinet. The combined cost of those medicines is around 532 euros per person, with the state covering 77 percent of the price, France24 reported.

“We have to do a big clean-up of our pharmacies,” Dr. Even told Le Parisien. “France has a huge public debt and the state can make considerable savings.”

“Meanwhile in the UK, where people take far fewer medicines than us, people are no less healthy as a result,” he said.

The two believe that, while there is no room for ‘useless’ drugs on the market, people should certainly continue to use effective drugs. “Antibiotics are the best [medical] discovery of all time,” Even told Le Parisien. “Antiretroviral drugs have given us a very real lead on AIDS and a large number of anti-cancer medicines have had an immense impact on our treatment of the disease.” more

Half of drugs prescribed in France useless or dangerous, say leading doctors

The doctors claim that the state wastes money on unnecessary medicine that they blame for up to 20,000 deaths annually

Kim Willsher in Paris, 14 September 2012

Half of all medicines being prescribed by doctors in France are either useless or potentially dangerous for patients, according to two eminent medical specialists. They blame the powerful pharmaceutical companies for keeping these drugs on sale at huge expense to the health system and the taxpayer.

Professor Philippe Even, director of the prestigious Necker Institute, and Bernard Debré, a doctor and member of parliament, say removing what they describe as superfluous and hazardous drugs from the list of those paid for by the French health service would save up to €10bn (£8bn) a year. It would also prevent up to 20,000 deaths linked to the medication and reduce hospital admissions by up to 100,000, they claim.

In their 900-page book The Guide to the 4,000 Useful, Useless or Dangerous Medicines, Even and Debré examined the effectiveness, risks and cost of pharmaceutical drugs available in France. Among those that they alleged were "completely useless" were statins, widely taken to lower cholesterol. The blacklist of 58 drugs the doctors claimed are dangerous included anti-inflammatories and drugs prescribed for cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, contraception, muscular cramps and nicotine addiction. more


  1. I haven't taken any prescription drugs in over ten years now, and have never been healthier.

    Obviously some are needed, but not as many as most doctors think. Another good reason to avoid doctors like the plague.

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