Short take: "multidrug" - WOTD from the OED

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 15 06:08:01 UTC 2010

multidrug 1. 1966-->1915-->[1895?]

I love finding oddities that don't quite fit, especially when they put a
significant twist on the good-ol' brute-force approach to searching.

First, it was "letter-bomb" from 1882 when modern usage does not appear
until 1947. Now we have "multi-drug" adj. in 1915, when modern usage
originated some time around 1966. In the former case, there was no
question that the gloss was identical to the one that eventually
coalesced (the term was defined in the text). In the latter case, it
gets more interesting. There is no "multi-drug therapy" to match, no
"multi-drug resistance". In this case, it's just "multi-drug user".
Medical Council. Philadelphia: October 1915
[Review of] A Synopsis of Medical Treatment. p. 63/2
> Many physicians will feel that there is a paucity of resource in drug
> medication ; but what there is of it is so dependable and effective
> that it will do the multi-drug user a world of good to see how simple,
> after all, modern medication has become.

In case there is any doubt that "multi-drug therapy" is intended here,
consider the next paragraph.

> Perhaps a word of criticism is in order. The general practitioner, who
> can not remain with his patient or who may not have the aid of a good
> nurse, may well hesitate in limiting his therapeutics to a small list
> of very potent drugs, such as is advocated in tis volume ; and he will
> probably find it advantageous to use less morphin and stimulants than
> Dr. Shattuck advocates.

It gets worse. I wonder what "multi-drug store" means. Is it simply a
"drug store" that sells a lot of different drugs? ;-) Or is it some
multi-(drugstore) chain? OED has "drugstore" back to 1810 and certainly
the citations form 1871 and 1889 show fluid integrated usage (corner
drug store that sells soda water and buying hypos at "every drug
store"). Besides, the whole piece is devoted to buying and selling
American druggist and pharmaceutical record, Volume 26:5 (322). New
York: March 11, 1895
General News Notes. p. 157
> Benfield Bros., the multi-drug store owners, have bought the Euclid
> avenue pharmacy of late operated by Dreber Bros. L. Dreber in return
> purchased Benfield's Florence Pharmacy.

Looking over these two magazines--including a full page Postum ("There
is a reason") cereal ad--you are easily reminded exactly why we now have
the FDA:

Pharmaceutical Progress, p. 138
> Bismuth Naphtho-Glyceride.--This is the name under which a preparation
> has been recommended by Saymansky as a specific against gnorrhea.

[Also note that "specific" postdates the OED B./n/. 1.a. entry by 25 years.]
A bit further down:

> New Solvent for Gold.

I'll just leave it at that...

Don't like 1895 or 1915? How about 1953?

Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive - Feb 14, 1953. p. 133
> The secret of fighting resistant houseflies--and perhaps, cancer
> cells--is to mix your weapons and use multi-drug combinations that can
> wipe out all enemies in a single blitz attack.

Did I mention the article is called, "In Ten Years--A Cure for Cancer?"?
No doubts about usage here, right?

One more, for good measure:

Los Angeles Times - ProQuest Archiver - Feb 9, 1960
> While not minimizing the effectiveness of multi-drug treatment, Dr.
> Hellman said he found bed rest and single- drug therapy as effective
> as anything else.

This one is pay-walled, but, luckily, the snippet contains all the
necessary information.

Unfortunately, this exhausts all available information that I found. So
only the first definition (which is a March 2010 Draft) needs to be
updated. Given how recently this entry was created, this is to be
expected. In fact, I am a little surprised that even this much can be
found. It's amazing the kind of damage that one amateur with a laptop
and a wireless connection can do... ;-)


PS: On a slightly different note, I find the 1971 citation for 1. simply
amazing, in light of the discoveries above:

> Multi-drug use appears to be an increasingly common practice.

It seems, multi-drug use has been a common practice for about 60 years
prior to this statement. It's incredible how narrow-minded researchers
can be sometimes. Perhaps it's not narrow-mindedness--it's the overuse
of cliches.

-------- Original Message --------

multidrug, /adj./             DRAFT ENTRY Mar. 2010

     *1.* Involving or relating to the use of more than one drug, esp.
concurrently. *1966* /Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci./ *135* 823 (/title/)
Multi-drug therapy including ethambutol in retreatment of pulmonary
tuberculosis. *1971* /Science/ 6 Aug. 505/3 Multi-drug use appears to be
an increasingly common practice. *1988* /Proc. National Acad. Sci.
U.SA./ *85* 1917 The cost of multidrug therapy to combat emergent drug
resistance of /Mycobacterium leprae/ is high. *1998* /Guardian/ 21 Dec.
8/2 The researchers call this expensive kind of multi-drug habit a 'rock

     *2.* Designating resistance to the action of a number of drugs.
*1967* /E. Afr. Med. Jrnl./ *44* 232 (/heading/) Multi-drug resistance.
*1981* /Proc. National Acad. Sci. U.S.A./ *78* 3654 Correlation of
double-minute chromosomes with unstable multidrug cross-resistance in
uptake mutants of neuroblastoma cells. *1993* /Brit. Jrnl. Surg./ *80*
124/2 P-Glycoprotein has been implicated as a cause of multidrug
resistance in a variety of neoplasms.

     *multidrug-resistant* /adj./ designating bacteria or a disease with
resistance to a number of drugs; abbreviated /MDR/.

*1966* /Amer. Jrnl. Trop. Med. & Hygiene/ *15* 823/1 The treatment of
the *multi-drug-resistant strains of /P. falciparum/. *1999* /New
Scientist/ 28 Aug. 21/3 A new antibiotic called linezolid could be a
potent weapon against multidrug resistant bacteria.

The American Dialect Society -

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