Most Americans say they're confident about the safety of prescription drugs sold in the United States, according to an Associated Press poll taken at a time when several popular...
WASHINGTON — Most Americans say they’re confident about the safety of prescription drugs sold in the United States, according to an Associated Press poll taken at a time when several popular medications have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency responsible for ensuring drug safety, has come under intense scrutiny recently because of health risks linked to Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market, Celebrex, and now Aleve, which is sold over the counter.
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Just more than eight in 10 of those polled said they have confidence in the general safety of prescription drugs in this country. Almost that many said they have confidence in the FDA. The poll was conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
But many of those people acknowledge they have some worries. Only about a third said they were “very confident” about the safety of prescription drugs in the United States and about half said they were “somewhat confident.”
Retiree Gabrielle Purvis says the barrage of news about possible drug problems is dizzying.
“You get so much instant information,” said Purvis, who lives in Lottsburg, Va. “It’s crazy. We end up with too much information that hasn’t been properly analyzed.”
Consumers have been hit by reports of a steady stream of high-profile problems.
The popular arthritis drug Vioxx was pulled from the shelves by Merck on Sept. 30 because of evidence it increased the risk of heart attack and strokes.
Late last week, another popular pain reliever, Celebrex, was found to increase the risk of heart attack when taken in high doses. The manufacturer Pfizer has suspended advertising, but the pain reliever is still on the market.
Officials at the National Institutes of Health on Monday halted a study of naproxen, an over-the-counter pain reliever commonly sold under the brand name Aleve, because of possible links to heart attacks and strokes.
The poll was taken before questions were raised about naproxen.
These reports — and questions about other prescription drugs in recent years — have led critics of the FDA to claim the agency approves drugs too quickly, doesn’t follow up effectively on possible health effects and is too close to the drug companies.
Many Americans have an interest in prescription-drug safety, given that about three-fourths of those polled said they had taken a prescription drug in the last year.
Of those prescription-drug users, just more than six in 10 said they have talked with a doctor about possible side effects of a new prescription drug. Men were more likely than women to have discussed possible side effects with their doctors.
Only 14 percent of people who took prescription drugs of any kind in the last year said they have asked their doctor or pharmacist to re-examine the drugs they were taking since Vioxx was taken off the market in late September and other drugs have been questioned, the poll said.
Among those who used Vioxx, Celebrex or Bextra — all painkillers known as COX-2 inhibitors — a third have asked their doctor or pharmacist to reassess the prescription drugs they are taking.
The poll of 1,002 adults was taken Dec. 17-19 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly higher for the 773 prescription-drug users polled.