Written by E. James Lieberman, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus at the George Washington University School of Medicine. Originally published in Psych Central (2010). Dr. Lieberman is a member of the National Physicians Alliance’s Communications Committee.
My father got his M.D. in 1930; I got mine in 1958. Insulin and penicillin came into being during his early years of practice. In my first years as a psychiatrist, tranquilizers and antidepressants changed the landscape of mental health. As doctors, Dad and I both welcomed Medicare in 1965; later on as patients we became grateful beneficiaries.
I remember him explaining “ethical pharmaceuticals” — a term that distinguished companies like Merck from hucksters of “patent medicines.” The scandal at Merck about the arthritis drug Vioxx came after his time — he would have been appalled.
Recently the line between ethical drug companies and hucksters was blurred by GlaxoSmithKline, which paid a record fine for its bad acts. Until this Glaxo case, drug firms took fines and some bad publicity in stride as a cost of business; now the companies and Wall Street are getting a new message.