04 June 2011
British scientists have raised worries over the growing cases of ineffective medicines and adverse drug reactions, saying the UK pharmaceutical industry is in “crisis.”
The clinicians expressed their worries in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, urging a rethink of the methods new medicines are tested.
The signatories of the letter, published in medical journal The Lancet, said that currently “epidemic proportions” of drugs are causing adverse reactions while patients have to pay increasing sums of money for their prescriptions.
The move comes as figures show some 197,000 citizens in the European Union's member states die of adverse reaction to drugs on a yearly basis.
The letter calls for a change of approach to drugs testing as testing on animals produce results that are not always seen in humans.
"Our reliance on animals to establish safety results in the exposure of clinical volunteers and patients to many treatments that are at best ineffective and at worst dangerous," the letter said.
Tony Dexter, one of the signatories and the head of a research lab in Cheshire, described trying drugs on animals and assuming they are safe for humans as “really the toss of a coin."
"A fundamental problem is that a rat is not a human. They are different sizes, have different metabolisms and have different diets so using animals to predict effects on humans is difficult. Fifty percent of compounds that prove to be safe in rats prove not to be safe in humans so it really is the toss of a coin," Dexter told Sky News.
The signatories of the letter urged new procedures in favor of testing medicines on human cells before issuing certificates for the new drugs.
They also voiced concerns about the soaring costs of new drugs that make them unsustainable “creating an ever-increasing burden on the National Health Service”.
A lack of adequate treatment for diseases like Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, many cancers, and stroke was another source of concern for the scientists and clinicians.
"The UK pharmaceutical industry is in crisis. Likewise, health care is in a web of crises, many of which are intimately linked to the pharmaceutical industry's major problems," letter cautioned.