I’m currently reading a very interesting book about the greatest charlatan of all time. The name of the book is appropriately titled, “Charlatan,” by Pope Brock. It’s about John R. Brinkley who lived from 1885 – 1942. He practiced in Milford, Kansas but became known throughout the world as the goat doctor. He transplanted goat testicles into the scrotum of humans and claimed it would cure almost anything. He claimed it would restore virility, increase libido and cure impotence. He also transplanted goat ovaries into the abdomen of women to restore their youth. Barkley attended a fly by night quack school in Chicago but didn’t even finish his course of study at this place, which taught eclectic or holistic medicine. He finally bought a diploma and set up shop. He attracted some high profile customers and had a number of folks claiming miraculous cures and great results. Many people also died after his surgery or suffered incredibly from infections. The restoration of virility for the few who praised him was in the mind only and not from any endocrine effect.
The other trick he used was to open a radio station in Kansas. Radio was new to the world during his time after WWI. He was one of the first to advertise. He filled the airway about his miracle cures and had a program for people to call in and he would prescribe his elixirs that were mainly alcohol and water. He made millions when a million was a whole lot of money.
Brinkley practiced in a time when people would literally believe anything. To a large extent they still do. People are afraid of death and want to believe in miracles, so they will latch on to anyone who gives the faintest ray of hope. Hucksters still abound and steal our money for investments that fail and they are elected to public office on promises they cannot keep.
Today, we learned that Pfizer Drug Co. must pay a 2.3 billion dollar settlement because of unlawful prescription drug promotions. The judgment is almost certainly justified but the exorbitant amount will only mean that we will have to pay more for drugs. Fraud with drugs and healthcare goes on every day and is one of the greatest costs in the delivery of care. Self-referral is a type of fraud in which doctors refer to themselves for scans and testing on machines they own. This is an easy way for the doctor to greatly enhance his/her income but runs the cost sky high with unnecessary testing. Self-referral probably accounts for 20% of health care cost.
So, John Brinkley types still abound and are the reason we pay so much for everything and get poor results or shoddy goods. As I sit here on the porch and view my deer herd, I’m thinking about starting my own drug company. I can sacrifice a few of my deer for their antlers and can tell the world that I have discovered that powdered deer antler is a great aphrodisiac and will also cure cancer. I may be able to recover some of the money I lost to the Wall Street Hucksters.