Specific Medication and Specific Medicines.
Selected writings of John King:
Though Professor King had made some initial studies leading to the formulation of a specific practice of therapy, as before stated, yet he generously gives the whole credit for the work to Professor Scudder, whose epoch-making studies and formulation of the system of specific diagnosis and specific medication made him the Father of Specific Medication. His generosity is well shown in this review, for he makes no mention of the assistance he among others gave to Professor Scudder, further than what is stated in the first paragraph. Professor Scudder invited and received many contributions toward his studies in specific medication and frankly acknowledges them, but before promulgation they underwent a thorough test at his hands. This detracts not in the least from the honor due him as the founder of specific medication, but rather shows his breadth of mind in not assuming unto himself all knowledge. Dr. King honors his pupil and colleague in this generous review, and having passed through the period of heroic medication both in the old and Eclectic schools of medicine, he affirms his preference for and belief in specific medication, which he declares had been among his "heterodoxical" views and teaching for many years.—Ed. Gleaner.
SPECIFIC MEDICATION AND SPECIFIC MEDICINES.—For many years the writer of the present article has been a firm believer in specific medication, and in a few instances has successfully pursued it in his own private practice. It is also well known by those who in past years attended his lectures on Chronic Diseases that he frequently named specific treatment as one of his "heterodoxical" views, and that he even publicly stated that he "had no doubt the time would speedily arrive when disease (not including surgical) would be more successfully treated by agents addressed entirely to the nervous system." These views he still entertains, and they have become more and more strengthened by daily experience. Various circumstances, unnecessary to name here, have, however, conspired to prevent him from devoting his attention especially to them, and from giving that thorough investigation which their importance requires, though they have by no means been entirely lost sight of. Judge therefore of his great pleasure when the work, the title of which is given above, was placed in his hands, through which he learned there was one man who dared to expose himself to the shafts of opposition, ridicule, misrepresentation, and perhaps persecution by giving publicity to novel ideas and facts in medicine, entirely at variance with those which more generally prevail with the mass of the profession, but by no means the less in accordance with what we believe to be the correct route to medical truth and medical success.
To Professor J. M. Scudder belongs the credit and the honor of being the first to call the attention of the medical fraternity to specific treatment, presenting it in such a manner that any one may be enabled to test its correctness and add to its usefulness—for it is by no means wholly perfected; many deeply-grounded prejudices and fogy sentiments have intercepted its advance at almost every step. The book which he has just issued is a small one, but a really valuable one for the medical man. To correctly understand and appreciate it we must divest ourselves as much as possible of the old routine mode of judging and pronouncing upon diseases and remedies, and adapt ourselves to the new method, briefly explained by Professor Scudder in his Preface, p. vi, as follows: "Specific medication requires specific diagnosis. We do not propose to teach that single remedies are opposed to diseases according to our present nosology. These consist of an association of functional and structural lesions, varying in degree and combination at different times, very rarely the same in any two cases. To prescribe remedies rationally we are required to analyze the disease and separate it into its component elements, and for these we select the appropriate remedy. The writer has had a sufficiently extended experience in the treatment of disease, to say that he knows absolutely that remedies have this direct antagonistic action to disease, and in many instances he is able to define it so that the reader can readily determine its truth."
Specific medication has thus far not only introduced new and useful remedial agents to the notice of physicians, but has also led to the discovery of new and unexpected medicinal virtues in many agents ranked heretofore as secondary, or which have held a very unimportant position in our Material Medica. As far as the writer has ascertained, the theory of direct medication has already been favorably received by a large part of the profession, and it bids fair to become the prevailing theory and practice, thus placing Eclecticism upon an imperishable foundation, greatly above the present system of uncertainty and disagreement. A few years more and it will have completely revolutionized our Materia Medica and our Pharmacopoeia, for, notwithstanding the many really excellent agents and compounds to be found in these as far as indirect medication is concerned, it will place within our reach remedies of more reliable and positive influences in the removal of disease, and at the same time greatly simplifying our Pharmacy it will free us from the many polypharmaceutical and objectionable compounds now contained therein in the form of balsams, pills, powders, syrups, etc. But whether our Pharmacopoeia will consist wholly of alcoholic tinctures, as broadly hinted at by Professor Scudder, yet remains to be ascertained, as there are undoubtedly some agents whose virtues can be extracted to better advantage by other fluids than by alcohol; this, however, is at the present time of minor importance, and will be regulated by future experience.
Practitioners who desire to test the value of the specific method will find Professor Scudder's book very useful both as a Materia Medica and as a Pharmacopoeia. It commences with a brief but clear explanation of the "theory of specific medication," "specific diagnosis," the "difference between specific medication and homoeopathy," the "administration of medicines," "form of medicine," "preparation, classification, and dose of remedies;" and then follow, in alphabetical order, the various simples, numbering over 225, their properties and uses as pertaining to direct medication, the method of preparing, and the dose of each. Neither infallibility nor perfection are claimed, as the author acknowledges that much yet remains to be done; he very modestly states that the work "is presented to the profession as a guide in part, but especially as an incentive to the re-study of the Materia Medica." He invites his fellow physicians not to be influenced by any prejudices they may entertain in favor of the old method of indirect or empirical treatment, but to carefully test the correctness of his observations and statements, as well as to make investigations of their own, and thus assist in adding to the already long list of known positive remedies; he especially invites attention to several agents, the specific action of which he has not yet positively ascertained, and desires the profession to fully examine them. This publication is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and will be joyfully hailed by all lovers of truth in medical matters.—J. KING, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1871.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.