When looked at from a rational, unprejudiced standpoint, a standpoint not influenced by the prestige of foreign authority, I believe I am safe in saying there has been presented to the profession, at no time, anything that has had so few grounds for practical general adoption, or that has been so clearly dominated by commercialism as the synthetic remedies. The general acceptance of these on the mere suggestion of the name of a new remedy is really in itself a shame to the profession.
I have decried against this time and time again. No physician was more willing to look into the character of these remedies than I was in the early eighties, when we were getting some of the best of them. A careless, a superficial observer, even at that time, could easily see that a class of remedies with so little to recommend them, with so few fixed or permanent qualities exhibited in their influence on disease, could never have a fixed place in therapeutics.
Professor Lloyd, in The Eclectic Medical Journal, says very pointedly, "From the very beginning of the synthetic craze until the present, eclectic authorities have protested against the theoretical therapeutic invasion attempted by modern synthetic chemistry. It started in Germany by the discovery of a method of making salicylic acid from carbolic acid, and the world was soon flooded with artificial salicylic acid, made by a patented process that could be employed only in Germany. Quickly following, came successively other products, new in structure, and absolutely untried in medicine or in pharmacy. These, as a rule, were introduced by laboratory experimenters who practised on frogs, dogs, rabbits and such.
University professors united their efforts to displace well known and tried remedies by these too often untried monstrosities. To even give the names of these substances, enthusiastically forced upon the world, and artfully advocated, even in the editorial pages of state medical journals, would fill volumes. The leaders in eclecticism alone met this invasion, in a dignified and effective manner. They maintained their position as therapeutic expounders of the axiom, "hold fast that which is good."
It would seem that the time must come in the dominant school, when their leaders would rebel against this host of synthetic monstrosities hurled into their ranks. It looks as if there was now a little inclination in that direction. The American Phar. Record makes the following strong statement: "Everywhere there are signs of a revolt against the cult of the synthetic. We in America have suffered long in silence from the invasion of the robber barons of modem synthetic chemistry, with their cohorts of new and wonderful organic compounds, the latest sure cures for the various diseases of the human corpus. The neglect of the older remedies has become notorious. It would seem as if the modern physician was ashamed to be found using any of the old fashioned drugs or combinations of drugs, when a new and more expensive novelty might be employed instead."
"The note of revolt against the sub-serviency of medicine to the manufacturers of chemical compounds has been sounded recently by the pharmacists of Germany, the home of the synthetic, who protest with good reason against the increasing expense to which they are put by the multiplication of new remedies and the necessity for burdening their already overloaded shelves with the ounces, quarter ounces, and drams of substances which may be called for once in quantities of a grain or more, never afterward ordered, the place of the marvelous compound of today being taken by the equally wonderful discovery of tomorrow."
It is certainly to be hoped that this unaccountable and unprecedented spell with which the German manufacturers have been able to keep almost the entire dominant school spellbound, for twenty years, was about to be broken. It is certainly a disgrace to the profession that they have been so bound, because these remedies, one after another, have been necessarily discarded, either because of their inertness or because of their injurious effects, or because of their almost entire failure in the therapeutic lines suggested, until at the present time it is exceedingly doubtful if two per cent of those which have been so extravagantly praised by the manufacturers, and accepted by the profession because they were made in Germany, are still in common use.
Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.