Bad medicine

Published: Saturday 15 November 1997

A REPORT written by leading pharmacologists claims that about 20 per cent of the drugs prescribed in Germany offer no real clinical benefits. The report says that distinguishing between effec-tive medicines and worthless treatment is particularly difficult in Germany. Of the 50,000 prescription drugs currently in the market, nearly 33,000 have never been subjected to rigorous clinical studies. The Drug Prescription Report, as it is called, - published annually - helps doctors and patients distinguish between proven and unproved medica-tions. This year's report differed from previous editions in that it included a chart showing how to replace allegedly ineffective drugs with better - or at least cheaper- alternatives.

But German drug companies had other ideas in mind. Realising the dam-age the report could do to their sales, they went to court. On September 12, three companies - Willmar Schwabe, Strathmann and Bionorica - obtained a temporary injunction from a court in Dusseldorf, preventing distribution of the report. The full legal battle is expected to last for several months. However, the German Pharmaceutical Industry Association, has claimed that the report is biased. The Association alleges that several insurance companies provided data for the report or financial assistance to pay for the analysis.

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