Prescription Medications New and Old

What to consider when your doctor prescribes a new drug.

By Irene S. Levine | PhD from Reader's Digest | September 2008

All things being equal, it’s prudent to take older drugs whose side effects are known instead of new drugs that have less data.

“It has always been unfortunate but unavoidable that some adverse effects may not become apparent until a drug has been in wide use,” says Peter J. Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former associate commissioner for the FDA. Sometimes it takes years and millions of users for a pattern to emerge.

When you get a prescription for a new drug, ask your doctor why the new drug is a better choice for you than something long on the market. Also ask about any known serious side effects. And read any printouts from the pharmacy before you take a new medication.

Speak up. Trust your instincts. If you experience any new physical or mental symptoms, consult your pharmacist or physician as soon as possible. Report any adverse side effects to the FDA (www.fda.gov/medwatch or 800-332-1088) and the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

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