Progress in Materia Medica


    IN few provinces is it more difficult to define the direction of progress than in the province of materia medica. To eat your enemy's heart that you may add his courage to your own seems a relapse into a barbarism centuries old. Yet medicine has but recently rediscovered that raw liver or the scrapings of the stomach of the pig have a virtue in remedying deficiencies of those organs in man. In 1820, Paris ascribed “the revolutions and vicissitudes which remedies have undergone” to, among other causes, “Superstition, Credulity, Devotion to Established Routine, the assigning to peculiar substances Properties deduced from Experiments made on Inferior Animals, Ambiguity of Nomenclature, the application and misapplication of Chemical Philosophy”. As Mr. C. H. Hampshire pointed out in his chairman's address to the British Pharmaceutical Conference at Leeds on July 17, “drugs are introduced on high authority and supported by expressions of clinical confidence, they flourish for a time and then sink into a position of relative unimportance and finally pass almost completely out of use”. There is, nevertheless, a point on the circle which represents the best scientific and medical practice of the day, a point which Mr. Hampshire fairly infers to be represented by the “British Pharmacopoeia, 1932”, a fact which justifies use of that book as a criterion for determining the extent to which the pharmacopoeias of other countries reflect what is best in modern medical and pharmaceutical practice.

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    Progress in Materia Medica. Nature 134, 133 (1934).

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