LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D.
Published: October 11, 2005
New York Times
When two Australian scientists set out in the early 1980’s to prove that a bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, caused stomach inflammation and ulcers, they met opposition from a medical-industrial complex entrenched in the belief that psychological stress was the cause.
Opposition to their radical thesis came from doctors with vested interests in treating ulcers and other stomach disorders as well as from drug companies that had come up with Tagamet, which blocked production of gastric acid and was becoming the first drug with $1 billion annual sales.
Ulcer surgery was lucrative for surgeons who removed large portions of the stomach from patients with life-threatening bleeding and chronic symptoms. Psychiatrists and psychologists treated ulcer patients for stress.
The concept of curing ulcers with antibiotics seemed preposterous to doctors who had long been taught that the stomach was sterile and that no microbes could grow in the corrosive gastric juices ……