Views & Reviews Drug Tales and Other Stories

A short history of pharmaceutical marketing

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 20 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7801
  1. Robin Ferner, director, West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reactions, City Hospital, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK
  1. R.E.Ferner{at}

Thomas Gainsborough’s painting Peasants Going to Market: Early Morning suggests these peasants have a fairly straightforward plan to sell their meagre baskets of produce, which they will not expect to make them wealthy. Ironically, the canvas was one of a collection amassed by Thomas Holloway, who made a fortune from patent medicines, adroitly using newspapers both for explicit advertising and as a vehicle for news stories of astounding cures.1 Unsurprisingly, he advocated the “Hollowayian System of Medicine,” encapsulated in the slogan, …

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