By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times March 22, 2012
Watching Alzheimer's disease steal away the memory, talents and very selves of its victims is hard enough for the people who love them. Now, a new pill formulated by a respected pharmaceutical company and approved by the Food and Drug Administration will do little to help most patients and will bring misery to some, say two medical investigators.
The drug, Aricept 23 mg, is no more effective on the whole than the disappointing ones already on the market — but is more likely to cause gastrointestinal problems, wrote Drs. Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz of Dartmouth Medical College in an article published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ.
The new formulation was devised to serve commercial objectives, they say, and was approved despite a poor showing in company-sponsored tests.
Woloshin and Schwartz described Aricept 23's march to market in 2010 as "perplexing" and "depressing" and wrote that "there is no excuse for manipulating vulnerable patients, desperate family members and their doctors to use a product that is most likely to cause net harm."
Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of "The Truth About the Drug Companies," said the critique was important. "It illustrates very well how drug companies exaggerate the benefits of their drugs, minimize the side effects, and through misleading marketing to both doctors and the public convince them that a new version of a drug, with a new patent, is better than the old one, whose patent has expired," Angell told The Times.