Consumer Reports' Rx Reviews Stir Industry-wide Controversy

Ken Rankin
Published Online: Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Consumer Reports—a publication known for ranking the quality and value of products like toasters, automobile tires, and cake mixes—is whipping up a storm of controversy within the pharmaceutical industry by adding prescription medicines to the range of products that it reviews.

In its new rankings of drugs, the publication was particularly critical of the value of brand name Rx heartburn medications, concluding that over-thecounter Prilosec is just as effective as the prescription versions, yet it costs only one fifth as much.

CU's drug reviewers also reported that generic pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and salsalate, work just as well as far more costly brand name prescription analgesics, and that, for many patients, generic lovastatin can reduce cholesterol just as effectively as top-selling branded products.

The publication's ratings drew praise from FDA officials, who said the public should welcome additional information about the cost and effectiveness of medicines.

Drug industry representatives at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, however, called CU's drug reviews "troubling" because the effectiveness of prescription medications varies from one individual patient to another.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.

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