July 1, 1974

The Whole Truth

JAMA. 1974;229(1):74-75. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230390050030

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"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" may be a legal imperative, but outside of the courtroom this triad is often unattainable and sometimes undesirable. In the words of the philosopher, Alfred North White, "there are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths."

Physicians are often perplexed by the whole truth. For instance, they may have difficulty trying to find it in the literature provided by drug manufacturers. Although the information given in the package insert generally tells the truth and nothing but the truth, it often does not and possibly cannot tell the whole truth.

A case in point is the information on the bioavailability of drugs. Only in the past few years have we become aware of differences in the absorbability of different products of the same drug or even different lots of the same product. The extent of this difference is exemplified in various