IGNORANCE, MALICE AFORE-THOUGHT, OR WHAT?
AMERICAN MEDICAL JOURNALIST
Of late, the subject of proprietary preparations ethical and unethical . . . . One of the most glaring of the recent examples of this sort of thing is to be found in the February issue of the Druggists Circular. In an editorial under the caption of "Proprietary Preparations in Norway," the Circular begins by asserting . . .
Whether from ignorance or "malice aforethought," however, the balance of the editorial under discussion is marked by the same persistent tendency, or intent and purpose, to confuse the mind of the reader to the extent of leading him to believe, by specific implication or the ambiguity of generalization, that "secret" and "proprietary" are synonyms---that all proprietary remedies are "secret" as to composition and, therefore, "nostrums." It is next to impossible even to imagine that a journal of the "standing" and "authority" to which the Druggists' Circular pretends in its special field can be so crassly ignorant as to hold as a belief the impression it persistently and strenuously endeavors to convey. Nevertheless, its readers are reduced to this or just one other conclusion infinitely less creditable to the publication in question, which continues its discussion of the articles excluded by the Norwegian proclamation in the following terms:
"The list is made up chiefly of French preparations. There are some American, and we note with satisfaction that these include not only such common medicines as 'pink pills,' but likewise embrace remedies that medical men, of a certain stripe, have been in the habit of prescribing, such as Bromidia. The fact that physicians prescribe these secret remedies . . . is to aid and abet the enemes of medical science and tends towards making such a science impossible..... bind it in the bonds of ignorance and work for the future destruction of myriads of human beings.
In how much---or, better said, how little---the classing of Bromidia as a "secret" remedy by the Druggists' Circular is correct or justifiable is sufficiently shown by the three accompanying photoengravures of a quarter-pound bottle of the preparation purchased at the Prescription Department of the Kalish Pharmacy, Twenty-third street and Fourth avenue, this city. [museum note: New York City] The outer wrapper of the package bears absolutely no indications whatsoever, nor any particulars as to dose, and the formula printed on the small label on the back of the bottle has appeared in the same location for a decade and has been published in the advertising of the product in medical journals from the time it was first offered exclusively to the physicians of the country some twenty-five or thirty years ago, after the fashion shown by the advertisement of the preparation in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, also reproduced.
No pharmaceutical or chemical product of this or any other country has ever been more exclusively offered and advertised to the medical profession by its manufacturers than this one. In absolute contradistinction to the large number of those preparations of the day whose "scientific" character is loudly proclaimed and the claims made to their "highest ethicality" freely accepted, Bromidia is never to be found in full display quantities in drug store windows---neither in similar fashion on pharmacy counters, nor, worst of all, in the daily newspaper "patent medicine" advertisements of department stores throughout the country, and which latter have only to be watched to tell their own stories to all but those whose studious blindness to the evidence constantly before their eyes rivals the denials of even Peter, himself.
We doubt if there be a pharmaceutical product dispensed by the pharmacist which is more dependent for its sale on the prescription of the physician than Bromidia. Notwithstanding all this, however and the "formula published on the bottle" which the Druggists' Circular demands as a prerequisite to admission to the "state of grace" for which it holds and, where such exists, commends---Bromidia is classed as "secret" and discussed with corresponding opprobrium by our sapient contemporary, which, in the column adjoining the editorial under discussion, goes on to complete its "hari-kari" of stultification in the following terms in the course of a further screed on a kindred subject under the head of "Let the Label Tell":
"Something should be done by way of having their labels declare their composition. . . The battle is a formidable one and the right is seemingly still in the distance. . . . Why would it not be a good idea if those who are trying to get legislation, . . . passed a law making proprietors reveal the secret of such medicines? What more appropriate restriction than that of having the label tell the composition of such remedies?..... By compelling the label to tell their composition legislators can protect their citizens against fraud and imposition."
Is it necessary to say any more to illustrate the position of the Druggists' Circular? We have discussed the subject at so much length because (1) Bromidia is the only one of all the remedies included in the Norwegian proclamation specifically singled out by name for attack by the Circular; (2) ignorance of the law is no excuse for offending against it and it was the business of the Circular to know, since it pretended to discuss "secret" remedies, that Bromidia is not in that class; (3) readers of the Circular regarding its expressions as in any way authoritative would be led to beliefs contrary to the facts. These, we believe, are reasons enough for the length to which we have gone and if the Circular did not err in ignorance of the least excusable kind, why its "most distinguished consideration" as to the product specified? Was it mere ignorance, or was it design, which earned for Bromidia the distinction under discussion? Was stupidity or malicious misrepresentation responsible for the selection of Bromidia for specific mention and the terms in which the product was described and discussed?
The foregoing is not put forward in defense of Bromidia. As is perfectly obvious, the product requires none. It is merely a statement of facts and some comparisons. All who run may read, mark, learn and inwardly digest both, as an example of the caution to be exercised in considering the sometimes ignorantly and sometimes maliciously misrepresentative statements of self-elected "authorities"---friends, philosophers and sides, whose "sanctity" is not always sufficient to screen from view the Ethiopian nowadays only too frequently in evidence, in one quarter or another, or to smother his characteristic effluvium.
The position of the Druggists' Circular in the premises is either unfortunate or disgraceful. Its selection of Bromidia for specific mention and its erroneous description of the product may have been the result of ignorance, or it may have been the result of design. If the former, the Circular is to be pitied. If the latter, the criminal part of the transaction is reason enough for this exposure. In any case, the general position of the Circular in the matter of "proprietaries" is despicable. It rails at them editorially, and rails again, in its Pharisaical zeal for the protection (save the mark!) and welfare of the public, drug trade and medical profession, the while it is smugly content to swell its revenues by thousands of dollars per annum derived from advertising in its "business" pages the very class of remedies it denounces with so much holy (?) horror, hypocrisy and regularity in its editorial columns. Is it any wonder that "Jekyll and Hyde" members of the "Thank-God-we-are-not-as-other-men" Club are credited with little wit and less honesty? -- AMERICAN MEDICAL JOURNALIST - Vol. VII - Feb. 1905 - page 36