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This outta rap up my research on this topic for awhile.

'New' Drugs Little Help to Patients 05/30/2002
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editorial

Not every development in pharmaceuticals can match
the discovery of penicillin for impact.
But it's nevertheless a surprise to find
hat very few of the drugs approved by the federal FDA
over the past decade were even new --- much less significant.

The prices that consumers paid for those "new" drugs were hefty,
suggesting they represented clear advancements in health care.
But they didn't.
They were just repackaged and remarketed
so drug companies could extend their patent protections and
fend off competition from cheaper generic drugs.

Nearly 85% of the prescription drugs
approved by the FDA between 1989 and 2000
were neither new nor improved, according to the
National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation,
which has ties to the health insurance industry.

Of the 1,035 prescription drugs approved,
34% 361 were "new molecular entities,"
which treat diseases in novel ways.
65% 674 of the approved "new" drugs
contained active ingredients already on the market, and
558 of those differed from the marketed item only in that they
1 were combined with another active ingredient,
2 offered in a different dosage or
3 a different delivery system --- from pill to patch, for example.

By and large, the American consumer has accepted
the enormous cost of research and development
that makes the United States the proud source
of more than half the world's leading drugs .
But this tinkering with drugs already on the market
is no noble quest to provide patients with a better drug.
It's done to take advantage of a 1984 U.S. patent protection law
that effectively extends a patent by three years when a drug is modified.

That, in turn, thwarts the introduction of cheaper generic versions.
Generic companies are restricted from copying a drug formula and
selling it more cheaply as long as it enjoys patent protection.

Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry have called the study
"little more than a political and financially motivated cheap shot."
But it's hardly a cheap shot when beleaguered Americans
must pay huge amounts for repackaged drugs.
That won't cure the problem of soaring health care costs,
but it will eliminate a few of consumers' headaches.

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