"12% of drugs don't work"

Research undertaken by the consumers' organisation Test Aankoop revealed that 12% of medicines do not do what they say they should. Even more worryingly perhaps, 3% are said to be dangerous and should be taken off the market.

In all Test Aankoop tested 4,000 drugs. That's a little more than half the total number that is available on the Belgian drugs market.

Martine Van Hecke: We notice that drugs are becoming available on the market more and more quickly and that it takes more time to take them off the market when something is wrong. The procedure is cumbersome and it sometimes takes a year before a medicine can be taken off the market."

Non-prescription drugs fare the worst in the tests.

Martine Van Hecke: "We have serious doubts about the efficacy of 33%. 8% should be taken off the market."

Marc Bogaert of Ghent University: "It's above all older drugs that have little or no effect and often nasty side effects. As long as a product doesn't have life-threatening side effects it stays on the market."

The consumers' organisation does not want patients to decide for themselves whether or not to stop taking drugs, but to consult their GP."

The Belgian Chemists' Association cannot believe that dangerous drugs are available on the market here.

Marc Bogaert: "Drugs that are sold on the market require an authorisation and producers need a strong dossier to prove they are safe and efficient. There are sufficient safety measures to ensure that products with serious side effects are taken off the market."

The pharmaceutical industry body Pharma.be agrees: "Drugs are not sweeties. All parties involved take their responsibilities.”