There are 610 prescription drugs on the market that have never been proved effective: this list and discussion of each is useful and accessible to both physician and consumer. The numbers are surprising--one of eight prescriptions filled in 1979 was for a drug not considered effective by government standards--and the cost is not just in dollars. Since taking any drug involves risks, the authors remind us, the ""lack of effectiveness means you are exposing yourself to dangers without gaining compensating benefits."" This listing does not consider otherwise effective drugs that are overused or misused (e.g., antibiotics prescribed for colds), or those which interact dangerously with others; those listed here have no redeeming features. The authors found that most of the 610 drugs fell into one of two categories: fixed ratio combinations (common in cold/cough preparations, these go against the prescribing principle that the best treatment is with a single drug); and time-release formulations, which have yet to be shown to work (the arguments continue, the authors acknowledge, over whether the F.D.A. standards are too strict--or too lax). Information on specific drugs is easily found here (a complete, cross-indexed listing comprises the largest section of the book), and includes an explanation for why each is not considered effective. There is also general information on the preferred treatment for each of five categories of diseases which have been the particular target of manufacturers of these 610 medications: cough, cold, and allergy; heart pain; circulatory diseases of head and limbs; digestive disorders; and disorders of skin, eye, or ear susceptible to direct application of drugs. Nowhere else are these drugs and their status identified and explained in such detail; for the four or five years that it will take the F.D.A. to remove them from the market, this is an important guide that can be used in conjunction with general references such as the Physician's Desk Reference and The Physicians' and Pharmacists' Guide to Your Medicines.