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May 14, 2008

The Billy Goat War: Morris Fishbein and the AMA's Crusade Against America's Consummate Quack, John Brinkley

JAMA. 2008;299(18):2217-2219. doi:10.1001/jama.299.18.2217

It is the inattentive physician who has not realized that patients who leave the clinic clutching a prescription invariably seem happier than those who do not. This very human characteristic serves as the source for a Niagara Falls of pharmaceutical products, over-the-counter medications, alternative medicines, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, nostrums, and cure-alls.

Aside from the risks posed by those medications physicians legitimately prescribe, there are those posed by individuals who hawk counterfeit, harmful, or ineffective materials advertised as bona fide cures. Alas, as long as there has been a history of medicine, there has been a history of quacks. No less a source than the Oxford English Dictionary derives this most offensive of medical epithets from the medieval Dutch word, quacksalver, the boastful barkers, posing as medical experts, who sold useless and sometimes harmful salves in town squares.