JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
The descensus Averni of therapeutics is not a purely American phenomenon. In Germany and Austria pathology has made such splendid strides and has attracted so much attention that it has monopolized interest to an extent that has entailed neglect of therapeutics. The same tendency has played a minor part in this country, and to that extent has emphasized the opportunity of the drug makers and nostrum makers to become our preceptors in therapeutics.
In England the profession suffers nearly as much as we do, and largely from the same source. International comity has progressed at least far enough for us fully to sympathize with the plaint which appears in the British Medical Journal for Oct. 21, 1905. Our contemporary, in its editorial caption, asks: “Shall we take our therapeutics from the druggist?” Its text is a circular from an American drug firm, which instructs physicians in the several physiologic actions of the common alimentary stimulants and laxatives, all the allegations of this purgative primer being offered as an introduction to the surpassing virtues of certain “lapactic pills.” In the closing paragraphs our contemporary speaks as if describing conditions in America. “We know it is said that there are practitioners who are content to take their therapeutics from advertisements which reach them through the post, and that in spite of the numerous protests we receive against the plague of druggists’ circulars, especially from across the Atlantic, our waste-paper baskets overflow with them, so that it seems possible that they fulfill their immediate object, which is the sale of the articles recommended. Probably the greatest hindrance to the healthy development of rational therapeutics, not only in the profession as a whole, but in each individual member, is the influence of advertising by which particular remedies are puffed into notoriety altogether out of proportion to their merits, and the quiet voice of criticism is drowned by the brazen trumpet of the nostrum vendor.”
THERAPEUTIC DECADENCE IN BRITAIN.. JAMA. 2005;294(18):2371. doi:10.1001/jama.294.18.2371