Thomas Ramey Watson

Common prescription drugs that do more harm than good

Two years after he stopped taking simvastatin, the patien t

reported his recovery was complete. His mind was clear and he

was back to reading three newspapers daily.

Statin’s side effects are rarely so severe, but they are far more common — and numerous — than generally thought. And statins aren’t the only popular drug with unpredictable side effects.

Three common classes of prescription drugs in the United States — statins for reducing cholesterol, angiotensin II antagonists for lowering blood pressure, and proton pump inhibitors for reducing stomach acid — can all cause side effects worse than the problems they aim to treat. And the symptoms caused by one drug may necessitate the use of the others.

For large numbers of people with questionable risk factors, these drugs deliver little or no benefit, but that hasn’ t s

topped pharmaceutical manufacturers from aggressively marketing them as preventive treatments.

Underlying their marketing strategy is a host of scientific studies that “exaggerate positive results and bury negative ones,” says Shannon Brownlee, author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer (Bloomsbury USA, 2007). “The science on which so much of prescribing is based is biased, shaky, over-marketed and misinterpreted.

These are excellent drugs when used on the right people.

The problem comes when they’re marketed to everyone on the planet.

There’s benefit to a few people, but when you start giving them to everybody, they may do more harm than good.”

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