A just-released study says people may be putting too much faith in the FDA, thinking approval by the federal agency that screens new medications means the drugs are safe, and superior to drugs already on the market. The study, based on about 3,000 adults, says 4 of of 10 Americans believe the FDA only approves "extremely effective" drugs. One-quarter of those surveyed said that the FDA only approves drugs without serious side effects. Unfortunately, neither statement is really true.

The FDA typically approves a drug for use if its benefits generally outweigh known risks. It doesn't mean that new medicines are better than older drugs, or that side effects won't show up years after FDA approval.

The survey appeared in yesterday's Archives of Internal Medicine, although the original research was done two years ago. One possible solution that would give consumers added information would be warning messages on medications, noting that newer drugs might not be safer or better than older medications. Another suggestion would be to put fact boxes on medications, similar to the nutritional fact boxes on many food products.The boxes would note in simple English how well the drug worked when compared with other medications for the same illness.The Department of Health and Human Services is researching drug fact boxes, but says it is at least three years away from a final report.

Do you think consumers get enough information about the medicines they take? Would you pay a slightly higher price for your medications if it would allow for the addition of a drug fact box? The discussion continues here, and on our Facebook page.