Physicians' interpretation of "class effects": a need for thoughtful re-evaluation

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002 Jul 3;40(1):19-26. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(02)01913-7.


The concept of pharmacologic "class effects" exists across a broad range of medical products and is particularly pervasive with regard to cardiovascular agents. Evolution of the concept over the past two decades has shown the influence of physicians' practice patterns, pharmaceutical companies, health maintenance organizations and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Understanding the evolution of health care, social and economic policies, acknowledging the correction of medical misconceptions and inaccurate understanding and appreciating the emergence of new medical knowledge over the past decade should modify the clinician's viewpoint of "class effects." These revelations should signal caution in extrapolating the outcome efficacy or safety of one agent to another within a pharmacologic class. The authors urge clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, health maintenance organizations and the FDA to re-examine their concept of "class effects." An appeal is made for physicians to prescribe those pharmaceutical agents with definitive evidence of mortality and morbidity efficacy and safety established by appropriately scaled randomized clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cardiovascular Agents / classification
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Industry
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Cardiovascular Agents