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Torgny Segerstedt responds in 1938 to a debate calling for a ban on "fake medicines"
The kindly Medicines Board should extend its supervision of the advertising of medicines and foodstuffs, so that the public is not deceived by others than those who have a right to it.
The sale of pharmaceutical preparations is already monitored. Their composition, price and advertising are examined before they receive the registration that is a condition for sale. If inappropriate advertising occurs, the Medicines Agency has the right to withdraw the registration. However, as a rule, the offender must first be given the opportunity to repent and reform.
This right of the Medicines Agency to control and curb inappropriate advertising is now to be extended. The intention is to protect the public against misleading advertising. That is commendable, well-intentioned and all that.
Now the advertising people themselves, through their organisations, have been working to the same end. They have been quite energetic in taking action against abuses of various kinds, and in working to bring about fixed standards to be followed. It would probably be wise to rest on one's laurels and see what can be achieved in this way before taking the line of the Medical Council.
However it is, the placing of business under the supervision of government always gives rise to strong misgivings. The bureaucratic complexity is troublesome. A civil servant need not be challenged by it, but in nine cases out of ten he is. So when this spirit is breathed into business, discontent is caused.
Nor is there any reason to exaggerate the dangers to the public of licking some preparations which are, in any case, quite innocent. The fact that it prevents a poor man from getting to the doctor "in time" provokes the question: what happens if he gets there "in time"? Might not that word also conceal a little, a little humbug? Is it never?
Sick people must have something or someone to hold on to, because the illness robs them of their self-confidence. Sometimes something can be done for the recovery of health, sometimes not. Surgery can do wonderful things. But in every case, the person weakened by illness clings to his doctor. If he can get support elsewhere, there is usually no harm done.
And as for preparations which can never seriously harm people who use them, let them be freely used in all the world. It may well be that they are as useful as drugs obtained by prescription.
On the whole, this paternalism and paternalism in all walks of life is unappealing. Leave people alone for a bit. Let them have their freedom to be clever or to do stupid things; you can never stop people doing stupid things anyway. But by letting them be constantly watched by partisans, their ability to take care of themselves is blunted.
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