History of the Health Sciences Lecture Series 
With Scott H. Podolsky, M.D., Associate Prof. of Global Health & Social Medicine, Harvard University Medical School

Wednesday, March 30, 2015
Refreshments at 5:30pm, Lecture at 6:00pm

Russ Berrie Pavilion, Room 1
1150 St. Nicholas Avenue at West 168th Street

During the post–World War II “wonder drug” revolution, antibiotics were viewed as a panacea for mastering infectious disease. But from the beginning, critics raised concerns about irrational usage and over-prescription. The first generation of antibiotic reformers focused on regulating the drug industry: their victories included the adoption of controlled clinical trials as the ultimate arbiters of therapeutic efficacy; the passage of the Kefauver-Harris amendments mandating proof of drug efficacy via well-controlled studies; and the empowering of the Food and Drug Administration to remove inefficacious drugs from the market. Despite such reforms, no entity was given the authority to rein in physicians who inappropriately prescribed, or overly prescribed, approved drugs.

Physician-historian Scott H. Podolsky tells the far-reaching history of antibiotics, focusing particularly on reform efforts that attempted to fundamentally change how antibiotics are developed and prescribed. His talk will relate the struggles faced by crusading reformers from the 1940s onward as they advocated for a rational therapeutics at the crowded intersection of bugs and drugs, patients and doctors, industry and medical academia, and government and the media.

Concerns about the enduring utility of antibiotics – indeed, about a post-antibiotic era – are widespread, as evidenced by reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, academia, and popular media alike. Only by understanding the historical forces that have shaped our current situation, Podolsky argues, can we properly understand and frame our choices moving forward.

Scott H. Podolsky is an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, an Associate Professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. He is the author of Pneumonia Before Antibiotics: Therapeutic Evolution and Evaluation in Twentieth-Century America.  His newest book, The Antibiotic Era Reform: Resistance, and the Pursuit of a Rational Therapeutics, was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press this year.

Please join us on Monday, March 30 in Room 1 of the Russ Berrie Pavilion at 5:30 for refreshments, followed by the lecture at 6pm.  The Russ Berrie Pavilion, at St. Nicholas Ave. and West 168th St., is easily reached by the A, C, and 1 subway lines and numerous bus routes.