Hail the modern hero who beat TB

The Scotsman reviews the life and work of Sir John Crofton and his famous ‘Edinburgh Method’, following the launch of Sir John’s memoirs, Saving Lives and Preventing Misery.

Professor John Crofton took charge of the TB service in Edinburgh in 1951, at a time when the city was being decimated by the disease. Incidence in the capital was among the worst in Europe and patients faced a year long waiting list for one of the 400 available beds.

Crofton was born in Dublin in 1912, trained in medicine in Cambridge and London and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the war. Within a few years of being appointed chair of tuberculosis and respiratory diseases at Edinburgh University, he had produced the world’s first-ever truly effective treatment for tuberculosis.

Initially, triple therapy – the revolutionary idea of treating patients with three drugs at once to prevent drug-resistance – was met with distrust. The results of a rigorous clinical trial were just too good. In time, the “Edinburgh method” became the standard treatment for decades and saved millions of lives globally.

Sir John went on to many other campaigns and achievements, including campaigning for more effective TB management globally and against tobacco in Scotland. Sir John worked tirelessly into his nineties. He died in 2009.

“Never was a dragon more worth slaying.”
Sir John Crofton, on tuberculosis

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