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International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals

International Charter for Health and Humane Research

3. Essential Drugs Policy

The fact that animal tests are an unsafe guide to drug safety ought to be a strong incentive to restrict new medicines to those for which there is a clinical need, so that hazards can be minimised. Yet an analysis of new medicines introduced onto the world market over a recent ten year period reveals that over 70% offered no therapeutic improvement over existing products(7).

Medicines which offer little or no improvement are referred to as "me too" drugs and are usually developed because they are a good financial investment. They are considered to have no major advantages over existing products. They also keep drug prices high and confuse doctors faced with a choice of many drugs all doing the same thing(8). Britain’s prestigious Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin states that " the existence of many apparently similar preparations seldom increases therapeutic options but greatly increases the risk of unwanted effects". The Bulletin concludes that the use of a smaller number of medicines should increase the knowledge of their real benefits and hazards so leading to safer prescribing(9).

The adoption of a national medicines policy based on the World Health Organisation’s concept of essential drugs(10) could bring a dramatic reduction in drug-increased disease whilst the financial savings could be used more productively to increase the proportion spent on disease prevention. The WHO has issued a list of around 250 basic drugs to treat the majority of the world’s diseases.

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