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February 27, 1967


JAMA. 1967;199(9):662-663. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120090104025

Clinicians report that the emphasis in taking the medical history of a patient has been undergoing a subtle, but nevertheless decided, shift over the past few years. Whereas the major effort used to go into eliciting a description of signs and symptoms, a good portion of the history now consists of identifying which drugs—both prescription and over-the-counter—the patient is taking.

Several factors have combined to create this situation. With 7,000 drugs now available and with from 50 to 100 new drugs coming onto the market each year, it is unrealistic to expect the physician to be familiar with the effects of more than a small proportion. Further, populations are mobile and patients change physicians frequently. It is also a fact that many drugs produce symptoms characteristic of disease, and the search for iatrogenic illness has thus become an important part of every examination. Finally, patients are frequently cared for simultaneously