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Drugs: Oldies Can Be Goodies

Just because a drug is new, doesn’t mean it’s more
effective.  A recent
published in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrated that older
diabetes medications may be equally effective as some of the newer, more
expensive drugs.

Now this comes as no surprise to physicians, who know very
well that some of our “old standby” meds work just as well as their newer, more
expensive versions.

For example:

For mild to moderate acne treatment, good old Clearasil may be all you need.
A study
published in the Lancet found that over-the-counter topical treatments (benzoyl
peroxide based) worked just as well as more expensive new oral antibiotics
(including minocycline).

For mild to moderately elevated cholesterol, there doesn’t appear to be much
to taking a newer statin than on older one.  The cost difference may be as much as ten
times more, for small gains (if any).
For example, mevacor (lovastatin) is as inexpensive as 0.24 cents/pill
while lipitor (atorvastatin) can run up to $2.54/pill.

Charlie Smith
, former president of the American Board of Family Practice,
recommends these very cost effective medications to his patients as needed:

Hydrochlorothiazide for hypertension (from 8 cents to 20 cents/pill)

Bactrim (trimethoprim/sulfamethoxisole) for urinary tract infections (15

Ibuprofen for pain relief/arthritis (about 7 cents/pill).

So consumer beware – those medications that you see in all the TV ads may not actually provide substantial benefits over older, less expensive drugs.  Be sure
to ask your doctor if a less expensive medication might be appropriate for you… or
better yet, healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes make the difference between needing
a medication and not needing it at all.

*Drug prices may vary.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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2 Responses to “Drugs: Oldies Can Be Goodies”

  1. CharlieSmithMD says:

    Dr. Jones,

    Thanks for this practical and important reminder, and for using my suggestions!  This idea that “old”, inexpensive, generic versions of newer, branded, often outrageously expensive medications is one that all patients should be aware of, and should help their physicians remember to practice more cost-effective medicine.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice article.But On Lipitor Vs.Mevacore cost comparison–PLEASE remember that “Did you ever see a Brink’s truck follow a Hearst”.

            Mevacore reduced my cholestrols but Lipitor had better improvement.Now my doctors is trying Advicor–I realize that it is half statin and half Niacin.But Niacin gives me hot flashes,hives–so I am trying Advicor for 6 months.

             Thank God–my Company sponsored Health Insurance includes medication–so I buy thru Caremark for 90 days and save a lot of money.

            By the way,many drug co. now offer medicines for low income families–our State Congressman sent tel.# of 8 companies.

            Also,ask your doctor to prescribe higher dose–SPLIT it up –so your cost is halved.

                     Drug costs are a serious problem for many–but slowly we are finding ways to lower these costs.

                Healthy living is a GOOD POINT– I have lowered my blood sugar by 20-30 by regular exercise which puts me in the range–so no Type 2 diabeties.

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