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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 392

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

Lexchin J.
[Pharmaceutic regulation and inadequate drug prescription in Canada: the case of psychotropic drugs in the 1960s and early 1970s]
Sante Ment Que. 1997 Spring; 22:(1):283-300


The outcome of the drug approval process plays a major role in determining how drugs will be prescribed in Canada. The objective of this paper is to examine the nature of the regulatory approval process, its decisions, how these are expressed in pharmaceutical promotion and the ultimate impact of these factors on the prescribing of psychotropic drugs in general and particularly with regard to the benzodiazepines. There is strong circumstantial evidence that the benzodiazepines were approved on the basis of inadequate clinical trials resulting in these drugs being indicated for conditions for which they were not useful and significant safety issues being ignored. These deficiencies in the regulatory process were magnified in the advertising of these products to physicians, thus contributing to inappropriate prescribing in four areas: prescribing for psychosocial problems, overprescribing for somatic complaints, overprescribing to women and overprescribing for anxiety disorders. Problems in the approval process continue to exist and these will manifest themselves in ongoing inappropriate prescribing of psychotropic, and other, medications.


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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