Belief that new is better

Don’t assume a health action is better based on how new or technologically impressive it is.

Sometimes people assume that things we do for our health (health actions) are better because they are new, more expensive, or technologically impressive. In fact, they may not be better, or may be only slightly better, and they may cause harms that have not yet been discovered.


New treatments with limited or no evidence of benefit are frequently introduced into practice. Only slightly more than half of new treatments that have been tested in fair comparisons were found to be better than currently-used health actions, and few had large effects on outcomes that were important to the people taking them. Many new non-pharmaceutical health actions are not evaluated in fair comparisons, so we do not have reliable information about how effective or safe they are.

In addition, it takes years before some serious harms of health actions appear. Without long term follow-up, it may not be possible to know whether a health action causes serious harms. For example, research has found that it usually takes many years for serious harms of medicines to be discovered and then for those medicines to be taken out of use.


Vioxx (rofecoxib) was a new pain medicine belonging a to a group of pain medicines called non‐steroidal anti‐inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to decrease pain and inflammation in arthritis and acute pain in adults. Fair comparisons showed that more people who took Vioxx for eight weeks had relief from arthritis symptoms than people who took a ‘sugar pill’ or placebo, and that it worked just as well as another NSAID called Naprosyn. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vioxx in 1999. The producer of Vioxx spent $161 million advertising Vioxx with advertisements like this:

However, Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after it was shown that long-term use increased the chance of having a heart attack or stroke.


Remember: Just because a health action is new, brand-named, expensive, or technologically impressive with fancy packaging, it may not be more beneficial than other health actions, and it may cause harms that are not yet known about.

Educational resources for this concept

Primary school


Secondary school



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