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Topic: Wonder drugs
Wonder drugs
The ‘conquest of disease’ through medicines was a popular topic of books in the 1920s. A few vaccines were then being introduced and more were being dreamed about. It was, however, the development in the Second World War of penicillin - curing such diverse and feared diseases as syphilis, pneumonia and meningitis - which was a real breakthrough. A treatment for ‘TB’ soon followed and the sanatoria closed. The Victorian lunatic asylums were closed by the use of new drugs such as chlorpromazine (and because of guilt about locking people up). It seemed that the products of the pharmaceutical industry had almost magical powers. However, there were always sceptics. The tragedy of thalidomide - a sedative for pregnant women which deformed babies in the womb - shocked people in the early 1960s. The crisis of incurable AIDS in the 1980s challenged the faith of many other people. Books are no longer entitled “The Conquest of Disease”, but patient-doctor relationships may be moving to a new footing based on shared appreciation of risks and benefits of various treatments.
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Topic: The germs strike back
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Germs were once the biggest threat to life. Since the introduction of antibiotics, however, death rates from bacterial diseases have fallen dramatically. You are now twenty times less likely to die from germs than people were in 1937. However the rising number of cases of ‘superbug’ infections shows that the germs are fighting back.  > more

Topic section: Vaccination for the nation
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Using vaccines to control diseases caused by viruses has been extraordinarily successful, though sometimes disastrous and always controversial. Modern debates over MMR are only the latest stage in 200 years of disputes.  > more

Topic section: Addiction on prescription
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Mind-altering substances have always been both popular and useful. Unfortunately, many such substances are also addictive. New cures for mental distress have appeared, but these cures may be addictive or have other shortcomings. Can we find mental relief with total confidence?  > more
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