Richard G. Petty, MD

Training Doctors to Use New Medicines

I was saddened to see a press briefing by four senior members of the British Pharmacological Society  at the Society’s 75th Anniversary meeting in London. They called for an immediate improvement in the training of medical students and doctors in pharmacology and clinical pharmacology. They lamented the reduction in the teaching of the basic and clinical principles underpinning the use of medicines, that was leading doctors to be less confident in prescribing. This at a time when medicines are becoming increasingly powerful and complex to use, and when patients are more likely to be taking a number of different drugs.

I have known all four of the people who made these statements, and none is given to hyperbole. Professor David Webb from the University of Edinburgh had this to say: “Patients are becoming ill and some are dying as a result of poor prescribing. There is no doubt about that. A substantial proportion of that is undoubtedly avoidable.”

I was in San Francisco earlier today, and I was shocked by one of the questions, “What is the P450 system?” This is one of the most important metabolic pathways for medicines in the liver and the intestines, and it was worrying that a prescriber did not know that. In my view if a student doesn’t know something, it’s the teacher’s fault, so it means that we trainers are not doing as good a job as we should, and that the problems are not confined to the United Kingdom.

The discussion soon turned to the increasing evidence that some medicines may be associated with metabolic disturbances in some people who take them. We soon started talking about the broader issues of drug side effects. My view is that we don’t need to blame doctors or pharmaceutical companies, that have no interest in bringing unsafe medicines to market: the financial and legal consequences can be devastating. And in any case, I’ve met hundreds of people working in senior position in over thirty pharmaceutical companies and the vast majority of them are deeply committed to trying to improve the lot of humanity.

I think that the problem is not with medicine itself or with doctors or companies. The problem is inadequately trained and/or bad doctors and bad companies.

And fortunately all of those are uncommon. But if these pharmacological luminaries are flagging up a problem, we all need to re-double our efforts to ensure that everyone working in medicine is trained in the basics.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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