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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20407

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

Thomson AN, Barham PM.
The effect of a warning about putative adverse events on drug prescribing in general practice.
Soc Sci Med 1993; 37:(7):883-6


Many studies have looked at factors influencing doctors’ prescribing. None have done this during a time when prescribers have been just made aware of potential serious adverse events that might be caused by a commonly prescribed medication. A controversy over the safety of Fenoterol (Boehringer Ingelheim) in 1989 provided an opportunity for such a study in general practice. Practitioners were exposed to conflicting and changing views from authoritative sources, patient concerns raised by the coverage of the issue in the news media, and a need to maintain patients on effective therapy. The study demonstrated that the majority of general practitioners would act promptly and conservatively when faced with uncertainty about the safety of the medication they prescribed.

Attitude of Health Personnel* Drug Information Services Drug Prescriptions* Drug Therapy/adverse effects* Fenoterol/adverse effects Humans Physicians, Family/psychology* Questionnaires


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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