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Commentary

Do Not Operate Heavy Equipment While Reading This
Holman W. Jenkins Jr., Wall Street Journal, 12-29-04

"Aren't we all feeling a bit silly," Jenkins asks, over "last week's hysterical meltdown over common pain relievers?"

"Controlled trials are wonderful scientific tools making use of the law of large numbers," but those large numbers can still occasionally produce "flaky or misleading results." What we really rely on to establish the clinical value of a drug is its use by doctors and patients, the "larger empiricism that takes place once a drug lands in the market." Seen in this light, Merck's Vioxx withdrawal shows an abysmal "disrespect for doctors and patients", because "plenty of drugs far more dangerous than Vioxx are still available by prescription."

When a clinical trial or other mechanism discloses a manageable risk, the correct reaction is to disclose the risk and inform the market, letting doctors and patients make their own informed decisions. After all, isn't that why we require drug prescriptions to begin with?



Project FDA.
  
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