USDA-AMA-APhA Pharmaceutical Racketeering
From Nostrums and quackery: articles on the nostrum evil and quackery by the American Medical Asociation
NOSTRUMS AND QUACKERY
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
In the latter months of 1905 the first of a series of articles appeared in Collier's, dealing with what was well named the Great American Fraud — that is, the nostrum evil and quackery. These articles ran for some'months and, when completed, were reprinted in booklet form by the American Medical Association. Tens of thousands of these books have been sold and there is no question that the wide dissemination of the information contained in the Great American Fraud series has done much to mitigate the worst evils of the "patent medicines" and quackery. How hard these forces of evil have been hit is. indicated by the organized attempt on their part to discredit and bring into disrepute the American Medical Association by means of speciously named "leagues" organized by those who are now or have in the past been in the "patent medicine" business, ostensibly to preserve what has been miscalled "medical freedom."
A few years before the first of the Collier's articles appeared, the American Medical Association commenced a campaign against the proprietary evil that existed within the medical profession. After cleaning to a marked degree this Augean stable, the Association extended its activities to the investigation of the more widely spread evil of "patent medicines" and quackery. It should be understood that in many cases there is no clear line of demarcation between what are commonly known as "patent medicines" and the "ethical proprietaries." As has been shown time and. again, it is not unusual for a nostrum first to be exploited only to the medical profession—as an "ethical proprietary." After a sufficient number of testimonials have been received from unthinking physicians the promoters of the nostrum advertise their wares direct to the public—as a "patent medicine." Again, some nostrum exploiters prefer to exploit their products exclusively through the medical profession, never advertising direct to the laity. On the other hand, there have been a few cases in which nostrums have first been marketed to the public direct and later have been advertised either under the same or a different name to physicians.
Many of the articles that have appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association during the last few years, dealing with quackery or "patent medicines," have been reprinted in pamphlet form for distribution to the laity. As the number of these pamphlets increased, it was thought desirable to bring all this matter together in one book. The present volume is the result. Mr. Adams' "Great American Fraud" articles aimed to cover the whole subject of- quackery and the nostrum evil in as broad and general a way as possible. From the nature of the ease, it was impossible to give very much space to any one fraud. The present book differs in just this respect from the Collier's reprint. While but comparatively few concerns are dealt with, they are shown up with special reference to the details of their fraudulent activity. By this means light has been thrown into the innermost recesses —the holy of holies of quackery. It is believed that a perusal of the cases here presented will so plainly show the fraud, the greed and the danger that are inseparable from ''patent medicine" exploitation and quackery that the reader must perforce be protected in no small degree from this wide-spread evil.
While most of the matter here given is the result of work done directly by the American Medical Association, we have not hesitated to take advantage of the splendid work done by the Post Office Department through the agency of the fraud order and also of that done by the federal and state officials in enforcing national and state pure food laws. It is an unfortunate fact that much of the valuable work done by officials entrusted with the execution of the Food and Drugs Acts is buried in official documents that never reach those to whom such work is of the greatest value. We make no apology, therefore, for presenting in as popular a form as is consistent with scientific accuracy, the results of much of this work. In addition to these sources of information we have quoted freely from the reports that have appeared in the British Medical Journal on nostrums and quackery.
For the purpose of classification, this book has been divided into three general departments; the first deals with quackery, the second with nostrums, while the third contains miscellaneous matter that did not seem to belong to either of the other two divisions. Actually, there is no clear line between these divisions. While, as a general tiling, the preparations classed as nostrums are such as are sold through the medium of drug stores, yet, in a few cases, they are sold by the manufacturer— or, more commonly, the exploiter—direct. On the other hand, while we have classed under quackery those concerns which profess to diagnose and treat disease, some of these institutions also list their medicaments with the wholesale and retail drug firms. The divisions, therefore, are purely arbitrary.
Just a word as to the distinction made between proprietary medicines and "patent medicines." Strictly speaking, practically all nostrums on the market are proprietary medicines and but very few are true patent medicines. A patent medicine, in the legal sense of the word, is a medicine whose composition or method of making, or both, has been patented. Evidently, therefore, a patent medicine is not a secret preparation because its composition must appear in the patent specifications. Nearly every nostrum, instead of being patented, is given a fanciful name and that name is registered at Washington; the name thus becomes the property of the nostrum exploiter for all time. While the composition of the preparation, and the curative effects claimed for it, may be changed at the whim of its owner, his proprietorship in the name remains intact. As has been said, a true patent medicine is not a secret preparation ; moreover, the product becomes public property at the end of seventeen years. As the term "patent medicine" has come to have a definite meaning to the public, this term is used in its colloquial sense throughout the book. That is to say, all nostrums advertised and sold direct to the public are referred to as "patent medicines"; those which are advertised directly only to physicians are spoken of as "proprietaries."