Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/219

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219
EHRLICH'S SPECIFIC THERAPEUTICS

autopsied by Rokitansky. A diagnosis confirmed by a post-mortem became a too frequently attainable ideal and the physician of the day went far towards being the "petulant scientific coxcomb" of Mr. Bernard Shaw's aversion. This sterile complacency went even further, for we read in Baas that there were deaf physicians in Vienna who could not use the stethoscope but who presumably traded upon the Skodæsque dogma that there is no treatment for disease. Meanwhile organic chemistry was forging ahead at a rate which to Helmholtz "did not seem quite rational." The science of the coal-tar products brought great numbers of new drugs into play and pharmacology became more and more exact. Experimental pharmacodynamics, however, is a plant of very recent growth, the work of such men as Schmiedeberg, Buchheim, Traube, Brunton and Cushny. After reading the text-book of Schmiedeberg's brilliant pupil Cushny[1] we get such a poor idea of the bulky pharmacopœias of recent date, that the remains of the sifting process seem very like the stock in trade of Romeo's starving apothecary—

A beggarly account of empty boxes
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds.
Remnants of pack thread and old cakes of roses.

"The period of constructive pharmacology," says Cushny, "has scarcely dawned: at present its chief function is destructive and critical," and he points out that remedies "generally employed may be numerated in units where they were once counted in scores." The effect of this destructive criticism upon "pharmacologic fetishisms" (as Barton calls them) is seen in the gradually changing attitude of the medical profession towards a work like Osier's "Practice," which is not only the best book on the subject in English, but also the best abused, on account of the author's very conservative feeling about drug therapeutics. As a matter of fact. Professor Osier gives with lucid, scientific precision all that can be done for a given disease; when it comes to general drugging, he says that such and such remedies may be tried: he does not guarantee that they will cure. Similarly, if we follow the teaching of one of the most eminent of recent French clinicians, the lamented Huchard, actual drug therapy may be limited to some twenty remedies or groups of remedies {"La thérapeutique en vingt medicaments"),[2] viz.: opium, mercury, quinine, nux vomica, digitalis, arsenic, phosphorus, ergot, belladonna, chloral, bismuth, the bromides, the hypnotics, the purgatives, the antiseptics, the anæsthetics, the antipyretics, the

  1. "Cushny's "Pharmacology" (5th ed., Philadelphia, 1910) is dedicated to Schmiedeberg, "dem Meister vom Schüler gewidmet." For an interesting account of recent aspects of the subject see the two papers on "Pharmacologic Fetishisms," by Dr. Wilfred M. Barton in Jour. Am. Med. Assoc, Chicago, 1909, LII., 1557-1560; 1910, LV., 284-287.
  2. By Henri Huchard and Ch. Fiessinger, Paris, 1910.