Arthritis Drugs: Why New Isnt Always Better

Despite a lower price or the promise of prompt pain relief, dont switch to a new medication without the advice of your doctor.

For the past six months, youve been routinely taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve the nagging pain of osteoarthritis. The drug-call it Brand X-was recommended by your physician, and although having to swallow a pill every four hours has been annoying, the results have been pretty good. Today, however, youve noticed a new NSAID (Brand Y) on your pharmacy shelves. Its promotional materials promise to "relieve your pain within days." Youll only have to take it twice a day. And, perhaps best of all, it costs far less than Brand X. Should you make the switch? Not before discussing the new product with your physician. Brand Y is whats commonly referred to as a "me-too" drug-a medication that is chemically similar to Brand X but has been developed primarily to enrich its manufacturer rather than to benefit your health. When an innovative drug is launched and is successful, other companies try to develop a similar drug that provides the same advantages. Due to patent protection, they cant precisely duplicate the drug, but they can develop one that is within the same chemical family and works in a similar way.
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