Developed by Ringful Health in collaboration with Consumer Reports
Below is a description of the app from Consumer Reports web site.
Lunesta, Nexium, Celebrex, Plavix. These prescription drugs are household names, even for people who’ve never used them, and that’s not surprising. Drug makers spent $5.4 billion in 2007 advertising medicines like these. And a huge number of us take them. In fact, we spent $286 billion on prescription drugs in 2007 alone, about 75 percent of it on brand-name products like those above. But how can you tell whether a costly brand-name drug is really the best choice for treating your insomnia, heartburn, arthritis, heart disease or whatever ails you?
That question is all the more urgent now that so many of us have to cut expenses due to the economy. News reports say some Americans are saving money by cutting pills in half, or even skipping medications altogether. That can be a dangerous move, as you’ll learn later in this app when we describe the many medical conditions where skipping drugs can lead to serious illness or even death.
Fortunately, for many common conditions—insomnia, heartburn, arthritis, and heart disease among them—the high-priced drug may not be your best choice. And that’s where this app comes in. We’ve identified the top medicines to consider for over 20 common medical problems. Just to be clear: These aren’t the least expensive drugs, they’re the best ones—based on comparative medical research into effectiveness, safety, convenience, and side effects. But you might be surprised at how economical the best choices can be. As the savings chart shows, patients with one of these conditions may save hundreds to thousands of dollars a year just by switching to one of our picks—which is why we call them Best Buy drugs.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Hey, isn’t that my doctor’s job—to wade through complex medical information and find the best, safest, and most affordable drug for me?”
Well, yes and no. Every good doctor keeps up with the medical literature on drugs, but that’s hard since the volume of research is enormous. Moreover, physicians often know relatively little about drug prices or about their patients’ insurance coverage.
Doctors also face constant pressure from drug companies trying to influence what they prescribe. The companies spend some $15 to $20 billion annually on trade journal advertising and other outreach—including in-person sales calls, professional symposia and gifts—to spread their message to doctors, pharmacists, benefit managers, and others. Why? Because it works. Studies show that the brands with high marketing budgets also tend to get prescribed more.
As for that drug you see touted on TV, the fact that it’s advertised doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for what ails you. But it does suggest the drug is highly profitable for its maker. Indeed, virtually all prescription drugs advertised to consumers are brand-name products still protected by patent. That means the manufacturer can be the exclusive supplier—and hence charge a relatively higher price. After the patent expires, though, any company can make the drug—and the resulting competition drives down the price of such “generic” versions, even if the branded version stays on the market too. Once a drug goes generic, you won’t see much, if any, advertising for it. But you will find many generics among our Best Buy picks in this app. That’s because many of them are bargain-priced versions of former blockbuster medications that are now off patent.
Finally, should you believe what you read or hear in that prescription drug ad? Sure—as far as it goes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that such ads be truthful and list the drug’s major risks. But don’t assume you’re getting a balanced presentation of pros and cons. The mission of advertising, after all, is to sell the product and sear its name into your brain. There’s also no obligation to tell you all the ways a drug compares to its competitors.