As well as doing a module in Microbial genomes and Immunology I am also doing a Pharmacology module this semester and my shiny new pharmacology textbook arrived today. I was happy to see the following piece of text in the book.
ALTERNATIVE THERAPEUTIC PRINCIPLES
Modern medicine relies heavily on drugs as the main tool of therapeutics. Other therapeutic procedures such as surgery, diet, exercise, etc, are also important of course, as is deliberate non-intervention, but none is so widely applied as drug based therapeutics.
Before the advent of science-based approaches, repeated attempts were made to construct systems of therapeutics, many of which produced even worse results than pure empiricism. One of these was allopathy, espoused by James Gregory (1735-1882). The favoured remedies included blood letting, emetics, purgatives, which were used until the dominant symptoms of the disease were suppressed. Many patients died from such treatment, and it was in reaction against it that Hahnemann introduced the practice of homœopathy in the early 19th century. The guiding principles of homœopathy are:
- like cures like
- activity can be enhanced by dilution.
The system rapidly drifted into absurdity: for example, Hahnemann recommended the use of drugs at dilutions of 1:10^60, equivalent to one molecule in a sphere the size of the orbit of Neptune.
Many other systems of therapeutics have come and gone, and the variety of dogmatic principles that they embodied have tended to hinder rather than advance scientific progress. Currently, therapeutic systems that have a basis which lies outside the domain of science are actually gaining ground under the general banner of ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ medicine. Mostly, they reject the ‘medical model’, which attributes disease to an underlying derangement of normal function that can be defined in biochemical or structural terms, detected by objective means, and influenced beneficially by appropriate chemical or physical interventions. They focus instead on mainly subjective malaise, which may be disease-associated or not. Abandoning objectivity in defining and measuring disease goes along with departure from scientific principles in assessing therapeutic efficacy and risk, with the result that principles and practices can gain acceptance without satisfying any of the criteria of validity that would convince a critical scientist, and that are required by law to be satisfied before a new drug can be introduced into therapy. Public acceptance, alas, has little to do with demonstrable efficacy.
- Excerpt from H.P. RANG, M.M. DALE, J.M RITTER, R.J. FLOWER - RANG and DALE’S Pharmacology Sixth Edition.