One of the leading bodies involved in identifying hazards is the Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program which set out to monitor adverse drug reactions by continuously observing patients admitted to hospital wards and taking their histories.11
The Program first alerted doctors to the possible cancer-causing effects of reserpine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure.43 Animal tests reported by Ciba Geigy, which markets the drug, had shown no sign of cancer.44
Such cases highlight the need not only for effective monitoring of patients receiving drug treatment, so that hazards can be spotted at an early stage, but also for more relevant pre-clinical toxicity tests.
Epidemiology - Underrated and Underfunded
Despite impressive achievements, epidemiology has never received the credit it deserves. Although it is able to identify the underlying causes of illness and premature death, epidemiology does not have the prestige or financial support of laboratory research. The National Institutes of Health spends about twice as much on animal experiments as it does on research with human subjects,45 while the preference for molecular
explanations over social and environmental ones is backed by much of the medical establishment, by the drug companies and by the institutions of science themselves: there are no Nobel prizes for epidemiology. Furthermore, the high technology approach to medicine is far more glamorous and newsworthy than the preventive measures achieved through population studies. While epidemiological findings are saving millions of would be heart patients, it is the transplant program and attempts to develop an artificial heart that gain media coverage, even though they can only hope to prolong the lives of a tiny proportion of sufferers. As Dr David Nash, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York Health Service Center, explains,46
|<<Previous||Back to Study of Disease||Next>>|