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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 11827

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

MacLean DS.
Drug Overuse: ‘Get Your Doctors to Fix This’
Caring for the Ages 2007 Oct; 8:(10):5


“The doctors in this facility use too many drugs. Our quality indicator 3.1 on nine-plus medications is in the 85th percentile. You’re the medical director-get your doctors to fix this.”

-Nursing home administrator

Dr. L.I. Nasher, who founded geriatrics and published the first textbook on the subject in 1914, probably did not face this kind of demand. There were few effective drugs available in his time to prescribe.

By 1973, however, the first multiauthor geriatrics text devoted a chapter to “Hazards of Drug Treatment in Old Age” (Brocklehurst T.J.C., ed., Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston, 1973). Dr. William Davison, who wrote the chapter, cited the advances in drug therapy of the preceding 30 years, the rise of the pharmaceutical industry (which by then provided easily-administered tablets, not mixtures compounded by pharmacists), and the thalidomide disaster in 1961 as reasons to be concerned about overuse of drugs. Dr. Davison observed, “Drugs are not the answer to all our patients’ problems.”

Dr. Davison’s reasons for concern about drug use in the elderly have only grown in the subsequent 30 years!…

• Previous Approaches

• Why No Fewer Drugs?


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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963