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Pharma Suffers, Too

November 16, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 46

In his letter concerning “The Story of Stuff,” Alexander B. Morgan correctly observes that “chemistry lost in the court of public opinion years ago” due to toxic spills and other horrors (C&EN, Aug. 3, page 5). Unfortunately, the same is true in the realm of pharmacy in the minds of many believers in “alternative medicine.” We are told by people who know nothing of science or medicine that prescription drugs are chemicals and therefore bad, whereas herbal supplements are natural and therefore good.

As readers know, natural products are chemicals too, and many prescription drugs are natural products. Antibiotics are an apt example. On one website, an article titled “Do we really need prescription drugs?” recently appeared. The author displays an extraordinary degree of ignorance considering the countless millions of lives saved by those drugs. People persuaded by this type of propaganda put themselves in serious danger if it causes them to forgo a doctor’s advice.

Prescription drugs enter clinical practice and marketing only if they earn approval from the Food & Drug Administration as being safe and efficacious on the basis of extensive testing. Supplements are restricted by no such requirement. Nonetheless, large numbers of people prefer the bogus “pharmacy” promoted by the adherents of alternative medicine and by the manufacturers of their products. This is another example of the misunderstanding and mistrust of chemistry.

Anthony B. Mauger
Kensington, Md.


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