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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 10784

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Rogers , W.a.
The tangled web of medical and commercial interests
Health Expectations 2007 Mar; 10:(1):1-3


Drugs and therapeutic devices are an essential part of good health care. The use of pharmaceutical agents has transformed the treatment of many conditions such as cardiovascular and infectious diseases. The nature of health care allows for a wide range of potential interactions between doctors and representatives of commercial interests. The putative advantages of relationships with medical industries include new product information and training, free samples, funding for conferences, support for professional and social activities, opportunities to meet with peers, and the provision of congenial surroundings – supplying the ‘feel good’ element that may be otherwise missing in a busy professional life. We should however also be attentive to the less tangible costs of cosy relationships between commercial interests and medicine. The first of these is potential damage to the doctor-patient relationship via an assault on the ethical principle of beneficence, or acting in the patient’s best interests. A second harm concerns the moral character of doctors. There are a number of virtues that are traditionally ascribed to doctors. Finally, there may be loss of public trust in the medical profession to act as an advocate for patients rather than for themselves or industry.




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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909