Blur Concentrated Dosing of Catarrh Powders with 'Nostrums' as Vin Mariani
Published as "The 'Nostrum' Evil" in Collier's Weekly, October 7, 1905
There is but one safeguard in the use of these remedies; to regard them as one would regard opium, and to employ them only with the consent of a physician who understands their true nature. Acetanilid has its uses, but not as a generic painkiller. Pain is a symptom; you can drug it away temporarily, but it will return, clamoring for more payment, until the finnl price is hopeless enslavement. Were the skull and bones on every box of this class of poison the danger would be greatly minimized.
With opium and cocain the case is different. The very words are danger signals. Legal restrictions safeguard the public, to a greater or less degree, from their indiscriminate use. Normal people do not knowingly take opium or its derivatives except with the sanction of a physician, and there is even spreading abroad a belief (surely an expression of the primal law of selfpreservation) that the licensed practitioner leans too readily toward the convenient narcotics.
But this perilous stuff is the ideal basis for a patent medicine because its results are immediate (though never permanent), and it is its own best advertisement in that one dose imperatively calls for another. Therefore it behooves the manufacturer of opiates to disguise the use of the drug. This he does in varying forms, and he has found his greatest success in the "cough and consumption cures" and the soothing syrup class. The former of these will be considered in another article. As to the "soothing syrups," designed for the drugging of helpless infants, even the trade does not know how many have risen, made their base profit, and subsided. A few survive, probably less harmful than the abandoned ones, on the average, so that by taking the conspicuous survivors as a type I am at least doing no injustice to the class.
Some years ago I heard a prominent New York lawyer, asked by his office scrub woman to buy a ticket for some "association" ball, say to her: "How can you go to these affairs, Nora, when you have two young children at home?"
"Sure, they're all right," she returned blithely; "just wan teaspoonful of Winslow's an' they lay like the dead till mornin'."
What eventually became of the scrub woman's children I don't know. The typical result of this practice is described by a Detroit physician who has been making a special study of Michigan's high mortality rate:
"Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup is extensively used among the poorer classes as a means of pacifying their babies. These children eventually come into the hands of physicians with a greater or less addiction to the opium habit. The sight of a parent drugging a helpless infant into a semicomatose condition is not an elevating one for this civilized age, and it is a very common practice. I can give you one illustration from my own
[A DANGEROUS SAMPLE BOX WHiCH GOES THROUGH THE MAiLS. Enough tablets were contained in this package, marked "Xo Heart Effect," to stop the heart entirely if taken all at once. The' chief ingredient of antikamnia is acetanilid.]
hospital experience, which was told me by the father of the girl. A middleaged railroad man of Kansas City had a small daughter with summer diarrhea. For this she was given a patent diarrhea medicine. It controlled the trouble, but as soon as the remedy was withdrawn the diarrhea returned. At every withdrawal the trouble began anew, and the final result was that they never succeeded in curing the daughter of the opium habit which had taken its hold on her. It was some years afterward that the parents became aware that she had contracted the habit, when the physician took away the patent medicine and gave the girl morphin, with exactly the same result which she had experienced with the patent remedy. At the time the father told me this story his daughter was 19 years of age, an only child of wealthy parents, and one who could have had every advantage in life, but who was a complete wreck in every way as a result of the opium habit. The father told me, with tears in his eyes, that he would rather she had died with the original illness than to have lived to become the creature which she then was."
The proprietor of a drug store in San Jose, Cal., writes to Collier's as follows:
"I have a good customer, a married woman with five children, all under 10 years of age. When her last baby was born, about a year ago, the first thing she did was to order a bottle of Winslow's Soothing Syrup, and every
Were this drugstore display in illinois instead of New York City, the druggist would be arrested and his stock confiscated. This is one of the favorite cocain powders used by victims of the cocain habit. The law now requires that it be labeled "Poison."
week another hoitle was bought at first, until now a bottle is bought every third day. Why? Because the baby has become habituated to the drug. I am not well enough acquainted with the family to be able to say that the weaned children show any present abnormality of health due to the opium contained in the drug, but the after-effects of opium have been thus described. . . . Another instance, quite as startling, was that of a mother who gave large quantities of soothing syrup to two of her children in infancy; then, becoming convinced of its danger, abandoned its use. These children in middle life became neurotics, spirit and drug-takers. Three children born later and not given any drugs in early life grew up strong and healthy.
"I fear the children of the woman in question will all suffer for their mother's ignorance, or worse, in later life, and have tried to do my duty by sending word to the mother of the harmful nature of the stuff, but without effect.
"P. S.—How many neurotics, fiends and criminals may not 'Mrs Winslow' be sponsor for?"
This query is respectfully referred to the Anglo-American Drug Company, of New York, which makes its handsome profit from this slave trade.
Recent legislation on the part of the New York State Board of Pharmacy will tend to decrease the profit, as it requires that a poison label be put on each bottle of the product, as has long been the law in England.
An Omaha physician reports a case of poisoning from a compound bearing the touching name of "Kopp's Baby Friend," which has a considerable sale in the middle west and in central New York. It is made of sweetened water and morphin, about one-third grain of morphin to the ounce.
"The child (after taking four drops) went into a stupor at once, the pupils were pin-pointed, skin cool and clammy, heart and respiration slow. I treated the case as one of opium poisoning, but it took twelve hours before my little patient was out of danger."
As if to put a point cf satirical grimncss on the matter, the responsible proprietor of this particular business of drugging helpless babies is a woman, Mrs. J. A. Kopp, of York, Pa.
Making cocain fiends is another profitable enterprise. Catarrh, powders are the medium. A decent druggist will not sell cocain as such, steadily, to any customer, except on prescription, but most druggists find salve for their consciences in the fact that the subtle and terrible drug is in the form of somebody's sure cure. There is need to say nothing of the effects of cocain other than that it is destructive to mind and body alike, and appalling in its breaking down of all moral restraint. Yet in New York City it is distributed in "samples" at ferries and railway stations. You may see the empty boxes and the instructive labels littering the gutters of Broadway any Saturday night, when the drug trade is briskest.
Birney's Catarrhal Powder, Dr. Cole's Catarrh Cure, Dr. Gray's Catarrh Powder, and Crown Catarrh Powder are the ones most in demand. All of them are cocain; the other ingredients are unimportant—perhaps even superfluous.
Whether or not the bottles are labeled with the amount of cocain makes little difference. The habitues know. In one resp?ot, however, the labels help them by giving information as to which nostrum is the most heavily drugged.
"People come in here," a New York City druggist tells me, "ask what catarrh powders we've got, read the labe'.s, and pick out the one that's got the most cocain. When I see a customer comparing labels I know she's a fiend."
Naturally these owners and exploiters of these mixtures claim that the small amount of coeain contained is harmless. For instance, the "Crown Cure," admitting 2% per cent., says:
"Of course, this is a very small and harmless amount. Coeain is now considered to be the most valuable addition to modern medicine ... it is the most perfect relief known."
Birney's Catarrh Cure runs as high as 4 per cent, and can produce testimonials vouching for its harmlessneas. Here is a Birney "testimonial" to the opposite effect, obtained "without solicitation or payment" (I have ventured to put it in the approved form), which no sufferer from catarrh can afford to miss:
William Thompson, Of Chicago,
BIRNEY'S CATARRH CURE.
"Three years ago Thompson was a strong man. Now he is without money, health, home, or friends." (Chicago Tribune.) "I began taking Birney's Catarrh Cure (says Thompson) three years ago. and the longing for the drug has grown so potent that I suffer without it. "I followed the directions at first, then I increased the quantity until I bought the stuff hy the dozen bottles."
A famous drink and drug cure in Illinois had, as a patient, not long ago, a 14-year-old boy. who was a slave to the Birney brand of coeain. He had run his father $300 in debt, so heavy were his purchases of the poison.
Chicago long ago settled this coeain matter in the only logical way. The proprietor of a large downtown drug store noticed several years ago that at noon numbers of the shop girls from a great department store purchased certain catarrh powders over his counter. He had his clerk warn them that the powders contained deleterious drugs. The girls continued to purchase in increasing numbers and quantity. He sent word to the superintendent of the store. "That accounts for the number of our girls that have gons wrong of late," was the superintendent's comment. The druggist, Mr. McConnell, had an analysis made by the Board of Health, which showed that the powder most called for was nearly 4 per cent, coeain, whereon he threw it and similar powders out of stock. The girls went elsewhere. Mr. McConnell traced them and started a general movement against this class of remedies, which resulted in an ordinance forbidding their sale. Birney's Catarrhal Powders, as I am informed, to meet the new conditions, brought out a powder without coeain, which had the briefest kind of a sale. For weeks thereafter the downtown stores were haunted by haggard ycung men and women, who begged for "the old powders; these new ones don't do any good." As high as $1.00 premium was paid for the 4 per cent, coeain species. To-day the Illinois druggist who sells coeain in this form is liable to arrest. Yet in New York, at the corner of Forty-second street and Broadway, I saw recently a show-window display of the Birney cure, and similar displays arc not uncommon in other cities.
Regarding other forms of drugs there may be honest differences of opinion as to the limits of legitimacy in the trade. If mendacious advertising were stopped, and the actual ingredients of every nostrum plainly published and frankly explained, the patent medicine trade might reasonably claim to be a legitimate enterprise in many of its phases. But no label of opium or cocain, though the warning skull and cross-bones cover the bottle, will excuse the sale of products that are never safely used except by expert advice. I believe that the Chicago method of dealing with the catarrh powders is the right method in cocain- and opium-bearing nostrums. Restrict the drug by the same safeguards when sold under a lying pretence as when it flies its true colors. Then, and then only, will our laws prevent the shameful trade that stupefies helpless babies and makes criminals of our young men and harlots of our young women.
From Collier's Weekly, June 8, 1907.
PATENT MEDlCINES UNDER THE PURE FOOD LAW.
WITH the passage of the Food and ABSOLUTELY HARMLESS Drugs Act by Congress, the patent medicine frauds, which had fought its passage by fair means and foul—principally the latter—found three paths open to th«m. First, they could go out of business, rather than expose the real nature of the concoctions with which they have been so long "doping" the public; second, they could change their formulas, leaving out those dangerous ingredients which, under the law, must now be specified on the label before the Anodyne brought out by the Pure article can enter into interstate commeerce; third, they could remove from their labels the lying clauses which form the basis of their business, and print the percentages or proportions of such ingredients as are required to be labeled. There is a fourth alternative: they could ignore the law. A few are doing this in a small way; but mostly the Great American Fraud, for the first time on the defensive, has foregone its attitude of defiance. It is conforming to regulations; but, still true to its fundamental nature, it is by every possible subterfuge, while obeying the letter of the law, which says, "Let the label tell," evading and violating its spirit.
In brief, the national Food and Drugs Act requires that, to enter into interstate commerce, proprietary medicines containing cocain or its derivatives, opium or its derivatives," alcohol, chloroform, cannabis indica (hashish), chloral hydrate, or acetanilid or its derivatives must bear on the label in type not smaller than eight-point capital letters the percentage or proportion of such drugs; also that the label shall embody no "statement which shall be false or misleading in any particular." This last is vitally important in that it puts a quietus on the blanket claims of "cure" upon the labels, although, of course, the manufacturers will continue to swindle the public in the newspaper advertisements. The new law went into operation January 1, but labels now on hand may be used with supplemental labels, in the form of stamps or pasters, up to October 1.
The Cocain Purveyors Are Down and Out.
One definite, widespread, and immediate good has followed the new law. The purveyors of cocain snuffs have been, for the most part, driven out of business. These concoctions, ostensibly intended for the cure of catarrh, but in reality merely a supply for the cocain fiends which they themselves make, have been the first to succumb. Dr. Birney's snuff, Dr. Agnew-s snuff, the Cole. Gray and Crown cures have reached the end of their rope. Credit for this is due not only to the pure food law and many stringent local regulations, but also to the jobbers and retail druggists, who, despite the large profit in this line of business, have turned from it in disgust. In store after store of the better class, even where the law does not forbid the sale of cocain concoctions (as it does in New York City under Dr. Darlington's vigorous rfigime, in Chicago, and in a number of other large cities), my inquiries for the catarrh snuffs have been met with the curt rejoinder: "No; you can't buy that rotten stuff here." Out of twenty pharmacies which I visited in several cities of New York State, I was able to buy cocain in the form of snuffs, at only one. That was Robinson's drug store in Mount Vernon, N. Y., where a leering youth not only sold me a bottle of Dr. Cole's Catarrh Cure, but also bragged of the victims of the habit whom he "served regular," giving what he regarded as the highly amusing example of an unfortunate from Tuckahoe who came there every other day to "get his coke."
The Cole Medicine Company, by the way, has issued a circular to the drug trade announcing the issuance of a new nostrum for catarrh, that "can not give rise to any so-called 'habit' in child or adult." But it "does not propose to give up the manufacture of its original preparation . . . and its manufacture and sale will be continued as heretofore." This would seem to be a notification to druggists not troubled with a conscience that cocain will be obtainable "on the quiet" from the Cole concern. Perhaps they've thought better of it since the circular was issued. At any rate I know of several orders for the old powder that have received no answer. And, if they will take a layman's mild hint, they are pretty certain to get into serious trouble if they fake the Pure Food law for a toy whirligig, whereas it is really a buzz-saw. Their circular continues:
"It would seem that some of the jobbers have agreed not to push the sale of the old, reliable Dr. Cole's Catarrh Cure, and in one or two instances, have refused to supply it, on high moral grounds. The company knows that consumers do not become 'dopes' or wrecks: on the contrary, thousands of instances are known where the cure has done perfect workalong the lines intended."
The infamous Catarrh and Consumption "Cures."
Painful as it is to differ with as expert a set of liars as the Cole Company employs, the plain facts are deserving at least of mention. And these are the facts: Dr. Cole's Catarrh Cure is not a catarrh cure in any sense. It is a preparation for the instigation of the cocain habit. From the wretched habitues which itself has bred it draws its main profit. Its manufacturers, the Cole Medicine Company, are deliberate slayers of men's bodies and women's souls. And this crew has the effrontery to appeal to honorable men in the retail drug trade—the very men who best know the deep damnation of cocainism—to support and uphold their business in the teeth of the law. I do not anticipate that they will receive a very hearty encouragement from a trade which has learned thoroughly to despise them and their kind.
Wiser is that firm which deals in Dr. Birney's Catarrh Powder. Letters from them announce their retirement since laws are being generally passed forbidding the sale of cocain. and they have always conducted "a law-abiding business." Edifying, indeed! "There is none so mean but he clings still to one poor virtue." That of the Birney concern is, it appears, meekness. Birney has always conducted a "law-abiding business," and yet there is in the whole United States no city whose God's acre does not hold the bones of his victims; whose jail records are not black with their crimes.
In the sudden light which the Pure Food law throws into certain dark corners, that widely-bruited pick-me-up for lassitudinous ladies, Vin Mariani, takes on a changed aspect. From the enthusiastic encomiums, given out for advertising purposes by sundry actresses, one might suppose that the so-called French preparation was at once the most bracing and the most harmless of concoctions. Across its label, however, the pure food law has recorded the warning fact: "Each ounce represents one-tenth of one grain of cocain." This shuts it out of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, all cities and towns in Massachusetts, and many other places. As the average American woman can read and is not a fool. I fancy that even in those localities where cocain can be sold only in patent medicine form without a prescription (as has been the case until recently in the District of Columbia, thanks to Senator and ex-Doctor Gallinger's efforts on behalf of the nostrum people), the Vin Mariani trade will rapidly decline.
Next to cocain nostrums, the most dangerous class of patent medicines is that containing narcotics, such as opium, morphin and cannabis indica. Various are the evasions and contortions resorted to by these dopes in their efforts to make the best of the new law. Piso's Consumption Cure is an illustrative case. No longer is it a "consumption cure" on its label. The old label reads: "Piso's Cure for Consumption." The new label, in the same type, and presenting much the same appearance, reads: "Piso's Cure;" then, in almost undistinguishable letters: "A Medicine for"—and then, larger again: "Coughs, Colds," etc. Across the bottom of the carton, in letters sufficiently clear to acquit the makers of any attempt to conceal the most important feature of the label, runs this legend: "Each fluid ounce contains % grain cannabis indica, 5 minims chloroform, and other valuable [sic!] ingredients."