I'm always puzzled by the millions of people who take dangerous meds that barely work in the first place -- but now I'm starting to see why: They have no idea what they're in for.
A new survey finds that 40 percent of Americans believe the FDA only gives the OK to "extremely effective" meds -- and 25 percent believe FDA-approved drugs don't have serious side effects.
Even the FDA will tell you that's not the case.
Drugs don't have to be safe to win approval: Meds that win passage often have severe and terrifying side effects, up to and including death itself. And they don't even have to be especially effective, either: Some meds work for less than half of the people who take them... yet get approved anyway.
Just look at all the studies on everything from painkillers to antidepressants in which the drugs barely beat placebos.
So the real secret to drug approval isn't in safety or even effectiveness -- it's in passing the FDA's nebulous and industry-friendly "risk vs. benefits" calculation.
Sounds like some delicate balancing act, right?
In reality, it's about as delicate as a hippo playing seesaw with a mouse. I don't think I need to tell you which one of those animals represents "risk" -- and in many cases, meds win approval before all those risks are even known.
The survey also finds that warning labels might help people reconsider meds... sort of.
In one case, when given a choice between two fictional heartburn meds, patients reflexively chose the one they believed to be newer. But when given a warning that new drugs might carry more serious risks that aren't yet known, the majority switched to the older one.
In another, participants choosing between two cholesterol meds reconsidered when told one contained a warning that said "It is not known whether it will help patients feel better or live longer."
But out in the real world, patients rarely compare meds they way they do spaghetti sauce. In most cases, the doctor prescribes and the patient complies -- and that's why millions of people take drugs they barely understand for conditions they might not even have... like cholesterol and heartburn.
You should always read the warnings, of course -- but before you even get a prescription bottle in your hand, you need to ask your doctor a series of questions.
Keep reading for more.