Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The winner and still champion!

Yup, once again, willow bark tea, better known to us as aspirin, beats out the multi-billion dollar blockbuster patented pharmaceutical. At the meeting of the American College of Cardiology, researchers report that the widespread practice of giving Plavix to people who doctors consider to be at risk for heart disease, along with standard low-dose aspirin, is no better than aspirin alone. And oh yeah, it's dangerous.

Plavix was found in smaller trials to be useful as a clot buster for people with advanced heart disease who'd had revascularization procedures, so naturally, doctors started prescribing it for people who they just thought might get heart disease because of high blood pressure or a history of smoking. Good deal for Sanofi-Aventis. It costs $4 a pill and they sold $6 billion worth a year. Now it turns out, based on a randomized controlled trial, that it's no better than aspirin alone for people at risk, and it reduces the risk of heart attacks for people who already have advanced heart disease by less than 1% a year, at best (and maybe not at all), while substantially increasing their risk of bleeding.

So why do we keep getting all these multibillion dollar blockbuster aspiring aspirin substitutes -- from Vioxx to Plavix -- that turn out to be useless and dangerous -- when we could just keep taking aspirin? You know the answer.

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