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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 15554

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: news

Too Many Drugs?
Time 1960 Apr 25,9171,826313,00.html

Full text:

Some drugs that are aggressively peddled by pharmaceutical manufacturers may do more harm than good, and the facts that physicians need to know about them may be concealed for commercial reasons. These charges against the industry were made last week by two outspoken physicians, one with personal experience in the business, the other a university expert on its products.

Dr. Arthur Dale Console, 46, former medical research director for E. R. Squibb & Sons, told the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee (TIME, Dec. 21), chaired by Tennessee’s Democrat Estes Kefauver, that many drugs of high price but low medicinal value are being foisted on doctors and patients. Dr. Console emphasized that he was testifying about the industry as a whole and not as a witness against Squibb. (After recurrent bouts with tuberculosis, he quit the company to go into private practice in Princeton, N.J.) Then Dr. Console declared: “The incidence of disease cannot be manipulated, so increased sales volume must depend at least in part on the use of drugs . . . improperly prescribed.”

The industry. Dr. Console noted, wears a cloak of “self-proclaimed virtue” for its costly research activities, stressing “that there are many failures for each successful drug.” But, he charged, “the problem is that they market so many of their failures.” Under present law, a new drug may be marketed, “if it cannot be shown that it probably will kill too many people.” Reluctantly, Dr. Console concluded, he is convinced that sweeping reforms dictated by federal law are the only solution, because a company that tried to live up to higher ethical standards could not survive in today’s competition.

The keenness of that competition was emphasized by Ohio State University’s Professor (of pharmacology) Chauncey D. Leake, 63, who is also president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The drug companies, said Dr. Leake, treat the nation’s physicians as “simpletons” by flooding them with “flamboyant, exaggerated advertisements.” And “these ads conceal for commercial reasons what is really essential for physicians to know.” The 20,000 “detail men” (salesmen who call on doctors) seldom give the physician the scientific background necessary for wise use of a new drug. “If promotional efforts were simpler and more informative,” Dr. Leake contended, drug prices could be cut.


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There is no sin in being wrong. The sin is in our unwillingness to examine our own beliefs, and in believing that our authorities cannot be wrong. Far from creating cynics, such a story is likely to foster a healthy and creative skepticism, which is something quite different from cynicism.”
- Neil Postman in The End of Education