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Literatim |

The Billy Goat War:  Morris Fishbein and the AMA's Crusade Against America's Consummate Quack, John Brinkley

Howard Markel, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2008;299(18):2217-2219. doi:10.1001/jama.299.18.2217.
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It is the inattentive physician who has not realized that patients who leave the clinic clutching a prescription invariably seem happier than those who do not. This very human characteristic serves as the source for a Niagara Falls of pharmaceutical products, over-the-counter medications, alternative medicines, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, nostrums, and cure-alls.

Aside from the risks posed by those medications physicians legitimately prescribe, there are those posed by individuals who hawk counterfeit, harmful, or ineffective materials advertised as bona fide cures. Alas, as long as there has been a history of medicine, there has been a history of quacks. No less a source than the Oxford English Dictionary derives this most offensive of medical epithets from the medieval Dutch word, quacksalver, the boastful barkers, posing as medical experts, who sold useless and sometimes harmful salves in town squares.

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Morris Fishbein at his desk at the Journal of the American Medical Association Dearborn Street office, ca 1924. Courtesy of the American Medical Association archives.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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