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French doctors: half of drugs 'are useless'

Published: 13 Sep 2012 10:38 GMT+02:00

Authors of “The Guide to 4,000 Useful, Useless or Dangerous Medicines”, doctors Bernard Debré, also a an MP for the centre-right UMP, and Philippe Even, director of the Necker Institute, studied the most common medicines and their effects on patients.

They found 50 percent of the medicines were useless, 20 percent were “badly tolerated”, and 5 percent have adverse effects.

Among the dangerous 5 percent were cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and contraceptive pills. Daily paper Le Nouvel Observateur, which takes extracts from the book in today’s edition, has compiled an all-inclusive “blacklist”.

In an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Dr Even claimed statins, drugs taken to lower cholesterol, were just one of the many drugs found to be “completely useless”.

“[Statins] are taken by three to five million French people, which costs France €2 million per year,” he said.

Dr Even and Dr Debré claim in the book that “useless” medicines cost the French government €10 billion per year.

On the pharmaceutical industry, Dr Even said it is “the most lucrative, most cynical and least ethical of all the industries”, and to rebalance the deficit in the health department in France “one simply has to take the dangerous, useless and ineffective medicines off the market.”

The Professional Federation of Medical Industrialists, Leem, have criticised the book as “confused”, saying it “serves to needlessly alarm the ill and could lead them to stop their course of treatments specially adapted to the illnesses they suffer”.

A 2011 study revealed France was one of the top consumers of medicines, with the average French person having 47 boxes of pills in their cupboard.

In a more recent survey, taken in July this year, 84% of the French said they had faith in medicine.

Dr Even and Dr Debré were commissioned by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011 to investigate the Mediator Affaire, in which drugs given to diabetics were thought to have killed up to 2,000 people before they were taken off the market.

Their report concluded that although it seemed to be an isolated incident, the medical system desperately needed a reform.

Nicola Hebden (news.france@thelocal.com)

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