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How about we periodically publish a big book that lists all approved drugs, their uses and side effects, and send it to every residence in the country like we (used to?) do with phone books.

In the UK most doctors have a copy of this book on their desks. Drugs and side-effects are also listed on the NHS website. (And on Wikipedia, sometimes.)

Of course the problem is the reliability of the evidence. I recently had to decide whether I wanted to go on a course of some fairly severe drugs with nasty side effects.

The original papers didn't make a lot of sense. The statistical conclusions seemed to be - if not nonsense, then certainly not very consistent.

My doctor said "Well, these are new drugs, so we're still learning about them." I didn't find that reassuring.

The real problem is that big statistical studies don't say much about why side effects happen. There seems to have been far too little research into understanding why/how side effects happen at all, and whether or not it's possible to screen for them.

That would probably require a level of personalised medical screening and dose control that big pharma isn't interested in providing.

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