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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 4472

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

Henson L.
Ego overload.
Australian Doctor Weekly 2004 Jul 5

Full text:

EDITOR I am writing in response to the stream of correspondence whinging about drug reps and medicines.

The latest is the letter by Dr Peter Mansfield, who makes a case for spending on medical education rather than on “overpriced” medication (‘Bad ads’, Gut Feelings, 4 June). This brings two questions to mind.

First, in what way would he say medicines are overpriced, and what drugs in particular does he mean in this sweeping statement? Second, the fibre of practising medicine lies in the therapy or ‘healing of the sick’, to whatever extent it is taken. Without medication and the advances in the science of pharmacology, medicine would still be in the dark ages.

A “healthy skeptic” wrote an article in a similar medical publication recently that modern drugs hold no advantage over older ones. What utter rubbish. For example, do you really suggest that general anaesthetics, with the use of modern equipment and drugs, carry the same risk as the use of ether and chloroform 50 years ago? Modern drugs save lives, and especially so in the case of antibiotics.

How can the PBS be taken seriously when, for instance, bisphosphonates are indicated, according to the PBS, after a pathological fracture was suffered? The idea is preventive medicine, is it not? High-risk osteoporotic women should take these drugs before a fracture has occurred.

I am even more exasperated by those who think I will prescribe an inappropriate drug simply because of a visit by a drug rep or a sponsored meal. That is an insult to everybody in this profession.

Please get real, and be thankful for drug companies, which supply us with the means to treat patients appropriately. And be even more thankful for the friendly drug reps who will educate you, if you will get off your own egos, and ask.

Dr Len Henson

Northam, WA


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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