A SHORT HISTORY
Although the qualities of individual drugs had been well described by the ancient Egyptians who listed and used a total of 975 medicinal remedies, by the Greeks who had a book in which the uses of 600 plants were outlined, and by many other early physicians, it was not until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that drugs specially made and marketed for home use became prominent and popular.
Many of these products relied more on imaginative advertising than their physical properties to attract customers. As we now know, even products which are totally devoid of active ingredients may have a dramatic effect on some patients. Sugar pills, which contain nothing more mystical than ordinary sugar, can be used to treat a wide range of several conditions. The patient responds to the suggestion made by the advertiser or prescriber and gets better because he believes in the potential efficacy of the product he’s taking rather than because of any inherent qualities of the drug.
So, such scientifically unproven products as the Carbolic Smoke Ball, Daffy s Elixir, Dr Bate man’s Pectoral Drops, Dr Scott’s Electric Hairbrush, Dr Srvayne’s Consumption Cure, Goddards Drops, James Morison’s Universal Vegetable Compound, Samuel Lee’s Bilious Pills, and Widow Read’s Ointment/or the Itch made large sums of money for their manufacturers and distributors and undoubtedly relieved many inconvenient symptoms.
The manufacture and sale of home medicines today is big business.
This may seem a very obvious thing to say but it is an important point to make clear because many of the people who go into a chemist’s shop or who read manufacturers’ advertisements undoubtedly regard everyone associated in any way with medical care as being fired by the purest of motives.
Unfortunately, this is not quite the case. A little healthy scepticism is called for when claims and advertisements are being considered.
The truth is that the preparation and sale of home medicines in Britain alone is worth considerably more than £200 million a year. That means that on average each household spends 21 p a week on medicines and that despite the National Health Service home medicines attract many buyers. There are several thousand different products on the market and in the areas where the greatest sales can be made – cold remedies, painkillers, laxatives, antacids and skin treatments – there is considerable competition.
All this means that home medicines are marketed in exactly the same way as soap powders, baked beans and aftershave lotions are marketed. Potential purchasers need to remember that.
The evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of most home medicines has never been subjected to critical review. When over-the-counter medicines in America were recently subjected to scientific evaluation it was found that over three-quarters of the drugs studied were less effective than their manufacturers had claimed.
GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
It is far better commercially to provide people with what they want than with what is good for them. And that is why so many ineffective medicines are manufactured and sold. There are a number of popular fallacies relating to home medicines that encourage manufacturers to prepare medicines that offer little in the way of relief but a good deal in the way of promise.
Patients popularly prefer medicines that contain many ingredients. And so there are a large number of medicines that contain very small quantities of many ingredients. As a basic principle it is hardly ever worthwhile buying a home medicine that contains more than three or four active ingredients. The chances are that each ingredient will be included in such a minute quantity that it can never do any good at all. Putting ten or a dozen ingredients into one bottle of medicine is about as logical as putting ten or a dozen sauces and spices into a single bottle. The resulting sorry mixture is unlikely to be good for anything.
Another popular myth is that if a medicine is new it will be good. A nineteenth-century physician called Sir William Gull was so annoyed by the claims made by manufacturers of treatments for rheumatic fever thathe published a tongue-in-cheek paper extolling the virtues of mint as a cure. The joke backfired because his mint water treatment became fashionable simply because it was new.
A third way to please potential buyers is to offer them a product that seems unusual and rather mysterious. Garlic and ginseng, for example, which do have some medicinal effects, have achieved a great deal of popularity, but no one really knows much about them apart from the fact that they have been used in strange, out-of-the-way places for centuries.
Many preparations which are offered are intended to satisfy the purchaser’s vanity as much as anything else. Pharmacies are well stocked with <a href=http://www.turbulencetraining.com/”>muscle building</a>