Belviq, ActiPatch, Free Samples, Dollar Tree Drugs

2 concerned women reading the paper

We knew it was too good to be true – free and cheap drugs aren’t worth it. Also, taking a magic pill to lose weight could give you cancer (!). One ray of sunshine: a pain therapy device using shortwave is now available over-the-counter.
Have a lovely Valentine’s Day!
Be well

Belviq, Belviq XR

Diet pill lorcaserin (Belviq/Belviq XR) is being withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer immediately due to a higher risk of cancer than previously detected. The FDA called for the withdrawal and the manufacturer did so before it would be a risk of being banned.

“[O]ur review of the full clinical trial results shows that the potential risk of cancer associated with the drug outweighs the benefit of treatment,” Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “The company has submitted a request to voluntarily withdraw the drug.”

“Imbalances in specific cancers including pancreatic, colorectal, and lung contributed to the observed overall imbalance,” FDA noted.

For more on Belviq and weight loss, read Are Diet Pills and Surgery Cures for Obesity? 
Weight-loss drug to be pulled from market after FDA expresses concerns on cancer risk
Stat News – Feb 13, 2020

New Pain Treatment, OTC

ActiPatch, a pulsed shortwave therapy device, received expanded FDA clearance for over-the-counter musculoskeletal pain treatment.

BioElectronics – Feb 3, 2020

Free Drug Samples

Those free samples that your doctor might give you are not free. About 50% of doctors meet with sales reps from drug companies (called detailers) weekly and 60% keep a drug cabinet of “free” samples. Pharmaceutical companies spend nearly $20 billion on detailing and samples to doctors.

Commentary accompanying the article quotes previous research studies that have consistently shown that just one meeting increases “a general practitioner’s drug preference for the marketed drug more than 2-fold.5 After the second pharmaceutical detailing visit, this drug preference increased by an additional 50%.” Those same meetings resulted in inappropriate prescribing, lower prescribing quality, and/or increased prescribing costs.

Doctors are deluged by hundreds of new drugs a year, of course they are going to be more comfortable prescribing something they have had a mini-lecture on, even if it might not be exactly right for that patient.

The cost of detailing and samples gets included in the costs of drug you do pay for. In addition preferencing brand-name drugs promoted to doctors means less-expensive and equally effective generic drugs are under-used.

A National Survey of the Frequency of Drug Company Detailing Visits and Free Sample Closets in Practices Delivering Primary Care – JAMA Jan 20, 2020

The Cost of Pharmaceutical Company Detailing Visits and Medication Samples – JAMA Jan 20, 2020

Cheap Drugs

Dollar Tree has been warned by the FDA that the warehouses and distribution centers from which they get the meds they sell have serious violations. These locations include the ones that make the “Assured” brand owned by Dollar Tree.

Dollar Tree’s Over-the-Counter Drugs: Cheap, But Potentially Dangerous
Public Citizen, Worst Pills, Best Pills – Feb 2020

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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