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Doctors and Patent Medicines in Modern Britain: Professionalism and Consumerism

Doctors and Patent Medicines in Modern Britain: Professionalism and Consumerism <jats:p>In the late nineteenth century professionalism and consumerism collided in a vociferous debate over the commodification of health. In medical journals, before government panels and through independent publications, doctors condemned “quackery,” especially patent medicines—the Victorian appellation for over-the-counter drugs. They dismissed myriad pills, tonics and appliances as addictive, dangerous, or useless. This professional critique, doctors claimed, was an altruistic defence of patients. Their commercial opponents, patent medicine men (and frequently the press), countered that the professional critique was rooted in a pecuniary struggle to achieve monopoly. While ascribing different motivations to each other, both sides assumed that medical professionals were unanimous in their condemnation of so-called “secret remedies.” Peter Bartrip has shown, though, that professional opposition to patent medicines was far more complex and muddied by self-interest. The <jats:italic>British Medical Journal</jats:italic>, while criticizing patent medicines, carried ads for them, which made the BMA the focus of allegations of hypocrisy in the <jats:italic>Journal of the American Medical Association</jats:italic> and before the Select Committee on Patent Medicines (1912). At the organizational level, Bartrip has established that the financial interests of the British Medical Association undercut its opposition to patent medicines. This compromised position, I will argue, permeated the profession. If the British Medical Association could not resist the advertising revenue derived from patent medicines, it was equally true that many doctors could not resist recommending patent medicines to patients. Far from epitomizing professional altruism, the patent medicine question demonstrates the reluctance of doctors to abandon individual self-interest in the wake of consumerist challenges that would ultimately transform twentieth-century medical practice. In doing so, the patent medicine debate engages and complicates arguments about the role of collective social mobility in the history of the professions.</jats:p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Albion CrossRef

Doctors and Patent Medicines in Modern Britain: Professionalism and Consumerism

Albion , Volume 33 (3): 404-425 – Jan 1, 2001

Doctors and Patent Medicines in Modern Britain: Professionalism and Consumerism


Abstract

<jats:p>In the late nineteenth century professionalism and consumerism collided in a vociferous debate over the commodification of health. In medical journals, before government panels and through independent publications, doctors condemned “quackery,” especially patent medicines—the Victorian appellation for over-the-counter drugs. They dismissed myriad pills, tonics and appliances as addictive, dangerous, or useless. This professional critique, doctors claimed, was an altruistic defence of patients. Their commercial opponents, patent medicine men (and frequently the press), countered that the professional critique was rooted in a pecuniary struggle to achieve monopoly. While ascribing different motivations to each other, both sides assumed that medical professionals were unanimous in their condemnation of so-called “secret remedies.” Peter Bartrip has shown, though, that professional opposition to patent medicines was far more complex and muddied by self-interest. The <jats:italic>British Medical Journal</jats:italic>, while criticizing patent medicines, carried ads for them, which made the BMA the focus of allegations of hypocrisy in the <jats:italic>Journal of the American Medical Association</jats:italic> and before the Select Committee on Patent Medicines (1912). At the organizational level, Bartrip has established that the financial interests of the British Medical Association undercut its opposition to patent medicines. This compromised position, I will argue, permeated the profession. If the British Medical Association could not resist the advertising revenue derived from patent medicines, it was equally true that many doctors could not resist recommending patent medicines to patients. Far from epitomizing professional altruism, the patent medicine question demonstrates the reluctance of doctors to abandon individual self-interest in the wake of consumerist challenges that would ultimately transform twentieth-century medical practice. In doing so, the patent medicine debate engages and complicates arguments about the role of collective social mobility in the history of the professions.</jats:p>

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Publisher
CrossRef
ISSN
0095-1390
DOI
10.2307/4053198
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<jats:p>In the late nineteenth century professionalism and consumerism collided in a vociferous debate over the commodification of health. In medical journals, before government panels and through independent publications, doctors condemned “quackery,” especially patent medicines—the Victorian appellation for over-the-counter drugs. They dismissed myriad pills, tonics and appliances as addictive, dangerous, or useless. This professional critique, doctors claimed, was an altruistic defence of patients. Their commercial opponents, patent medicine men (and frequently the press), countered that the professional critique was rooted in a pecuniary struggle to achieve monopoly. While ascribing different motivations to each other, both sides assumed that medical professionals were unanimous in their condemnation of so-called “secret remedies.” Peter Bartrip has shown, though, that professional opposition to patent medicines was far more complex and muddied by self-interest. The <jats:italic>British Medical Journal</jats:italic>, while criticizing patent medicines, carried ads for them, which made the BMA the focus of allegations of hypocrisy in the <jats:italic>Journal of the American Medical Association</jats:italic> and before the Select Committee on Patent Medicines (1912). At the organizational level, Bartrip has established that the financial interests of the British Medical Association undercut its opposition to patent medicines. This compromised position, I will argue, permeated the profession. If the British Medical Association could not resist the advertising revenue derived from patent medicines, it was equally true that many doctors could not resist recommending patent medicines to patients. Far from epitomizing professional altruism, the patent medicine question demonstrates the reluctance of doctors to abandon individual self-interest in the wake of consumerist challenges that would ultimately transform twentieth-century medical practice. In doing so, the patent medicine debate engages and complicates arguments about the role of collective social mobility in the history of the professions.</jats:p>

Journal

AlbionCrossRef

Published: Jan 1, 2001

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