Andrew Herxheimer - a huge influence whose legacy will live on
Andrew Herxheimer, who passed away on Sunday aged 90, was a medical doctor and clinical pharmacologist who was dedicated to promoting the availability of independent, unbiased, clear and concise information about therapeutic interventions to professionals and the public. I first met him in 1990 on the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB), the independent publication of which he had been editor since he founded it in 1962. DTB was a very special publication that gave readers practical information while helping them to think critically about medicines, and challenged evidence and promotion. The idea for DTB came from when he was on a sabbatical in the USA and was impressed by ideals of The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, published by the Consumers' Union. DTB started as a fortnightly 4-page publication, published by the UK's Consumers' Association and was aimed at doctors and pharmacists. The writing style was clear and succinct. It was really the first evidence-based resource on medicines, well before the term 'evidence-based medicine' was coined. I used DTB as a drug information pharmacist in the 1980s. For me it was the first port of call when dealing with clinical questions about medicines as it would so often contain exactly the answer I was looking for. This was down to the way the articles were produced. Drafts were widely circulated, which ensured that articles covered what clinicians needed to know and made it possible to suggest practical solutions based on consensus in the absence of evidence. The published articles were unsigned because of the collaborative approach, but also to protect the people who wanted to speak the truth about medicines without losing industry research grants.
I visited him in January to record an interview. His clear skin, bright eyes and sharp mind belied his age, and his love of puns was still obvious ("clarity begins at home"). Andrew's legacy is a driving force behind Veterinary Prescriber and I was keen to hear about the beginnings of DTB, and the challenges of establishing an independent publication. He generously shared his memories and knowledge and suggested new ideas. I learned that his interest in the way medicines are promoted preceded the foundation of DTB. One of his stories was about when he and a colleague tested a pharmacologically similar group of drugs, each of which was being marketed by a different drug company for a different medical use. They were able to prove that all the drugs had the same pharmacological effects.
Andrew retired from the editorship of DTB in 1992, but continued working until the end, encouraging the production of independent information on medicines around the world through the International Society of Drug Bulletins, and in the Cochrane Collaboration and with DIPEX, a database of patients' experience, which he co-founded. Undoubtedly there will be a lot written about him elsewhere as he was an extraordinary gentleman.
He will be missed,
Founder and Director of Veterinary Prescriber