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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 8247

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

Fleg AN.
Introduction to pharmaceuticology
studentBMJ 2007; 15:45-88


It’s a course we should all take seriously, argues Anthony N Fleg

Medical students learn much about the art of medicine in their clinical years, honing diagnostic and therapeutic skills. What you may not realise is the added, non-credit course that you take in the middle of your rotations-introduction to pharmaceuticology. Differing from pharmacology, the study of therapeutic agents and their effects on the body, pharmaceuticology involves the interaction between doctors and the industry that manufactures and promotes these agents. Medical schools do not prepare their students for the onslaught of drug company salespeople and advertisements that immediately vie for our loyalty. Gone are the days of the preclinical years, when drugs were known by their hard to pronounce generic names and complicated mechanism of action. Now the medical student is expected to speak in the language of brand names, pill colours, and catchy drug slogans…


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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