Benefits, benefits, once more benefits... with no risk? Stop overlooking the harms of medicines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consideration of drug benefits and harms is asymmetric. Approval of drugs is mainly based on efficacy, while the assessment of their safety is left to post-marketing commitments or spontaneous reporting. Benefits are overestimated as a result of pharmaceutical companies’ advertisements, the paucity of independent information, and the scant understanding of the effectiveness of medicines in real life. Polypharmacy in older adults—even during the last period of their life—reflects the tendency to assign priority to efficacy and overlook harms, although nobody knows what happens when three or more drugs are given chronically. Medical journals and public research funding projects do not pay enough attention to drug toxicity. We call for a sense of purpose by all those involved in medicine to tackle this problem. European and national agencies and health authorities should promote and support independent information and experimental and clinical studies on drug toxicity. Information should rely not just on spontaneous reporting but also on active pharmacovigilance. The benefit-harm profile of drugs should be periodically reviewed in the light of toxic effects that come to light over the years. Potential interactions within polytherapies should be sought by re-assessing the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of their components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-3
Number of pages3
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 27 2017


  • Benefit
  • Drug toxicity
  • Effectiveness
  • Harm
  • Polypharmacy
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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