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Contemporary Americans have little appreciation for the extent to which pharmaceuticals have changed the face of medicine in the past 75 years. Just think: before the advent of the “therapeutic revolution” that began with the development of penicillin in the 1930s, the physician's armamentarium of drug therapies was limited to aspirin, digoxin, and a handful of other effective treatments. Indeed, most commercial “medicines” of that era were so-called patent drugs, the active ingredient of which was alcohol—you didn't get well, but you felt better about it.
Hubbard WK. Can the Food and Drug Administration Ensure That Our Pharmaceuticals Are Safely Manufactured?. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(18):1655-1656. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.304