Bmj Usa: Editor's Choice

Magic potions and pills

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E56

This article originally appeared in BMJ USA

For thousands of years, people have been searching for pills, ointments, elixirs, confections, and tinctures to preserve their health, cure their diseases, and relieve their pain. The Egyptian document Papyrus Ebers (1500 BC) described 800 prescriptions consisting of 700 drugs (mostly plants) in the form of gargles, snuffs, enemas, suppositories, inhalations, fumigations, and other preparations. Today Americans spend more than $125 billion annually on prescription drugs, and another $10 billion on megavitamins, herbal medicines, and commercial diet products. This issue of BMJ USA includes several items on the continued search for powerful potions …

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