Hazards of New Drugs

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Science  22 Mar 1963:
Vol. 139, Issue 3560, pp. 1180-1185
DOI: 10.1126/science.139.3560.1180


Oliver Wendell Holmes (14) said 100 years ago, "I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica as now used could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind—and all the worse for the fishes." This is still true for the fishes; in fact, with our more potent drugs, it would be even worse for them. So far as mankind is concerned, however, I disagree; I need point only to our vastly improved mortality and morbidity rates. But mankind would be still better off if the physician treated the products of modern science with due regard for the principles of science; if there were no pressures distracting him from these principles; and if, in attacking disease, he viewed the large problem, with its long-range implications, as well as the immediate effects on a number of dissociated diseases. I think that the physician must transcend the businessman's ethic, and also that the safe and effective clinical use of new drugs requires a new and acceptable image of the physician, one which combines the qualities of Dr. Christian and the discipline and special skill and logic of the scientist.