Intended for healthcare professionals


Alasdair Breckenridge: pharmacologist who expanded research horizons and medicines regulator with vision and passion

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 11 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m558
  1. John Illman
  1. London, UK
  1. john{at}

Alasdair Muir Breckenridge was a giant in 20th century medicine—a physician, clinical pharmacologist, visionary, scientific talent spotter, medicines regulator—and a forthright Scot with a softer side. A self-confessed workaholic, he was part of a small elite group who turned clinical pharmacology and therapeutics into an increasingly important specialty.

He established his formidable international reputation at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, London, where he and the Australian endocrinologist Tim Wellborn developed the concept of insulin resistance in cardiovascular disease. His work on the anticoagulant warfarin was also seminal, firing his interest in drug metabolism and drug-drug interactions and—critically—expanding the horizons of clinical pharmacology. Identifying new opportunities for the field became a lifelong passion.

Golden opportunity

Most medical scientists would dread being kicked out of an intellectual powerhouse like the Hammersmith, especially if they had young families, but not Breckenridge. When his old friend and boss, Colin Dollery, told him it was time to go, he saw …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription