- Historic Sites
Sweet Extract Of Hokum
Patent medicines were usually neither patented nor medicinal, which is not to say they didn’t (and don’t) have any effect
June 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 4
“If we add to this billion dollars the direct costs of local quackery and the indirect costs of health misinformation,” says Wallace F. Janssen, historian of the Food and Drug Administration, “I believe a total figure of $2 billion represents a conservative estimate. The costs in terms of human values are, of course, beyond computing.”
Door-to-door pill peddlers, often little old ladies in sneakers, still ply their folksy trade (“We’re not doctors, see? But if you want to get rid of that lump in your breast for only seventeen dollars a month …”). Worthless diagnostic machines proliferate for the treatment of exophthalmic goiter, or what have you. It took the Federal Trade Commission sixteen years, one hundred and forty-nine hearing sessions, eleven thousand pages of testimony, more than a million dollars, and a trip to the Supreme Court to eliminate the little word liver from the trade name and advertising of Carter’s Little Liver Pills. But it was legally determined, at long last, that the seventy-year-old preparation, a laxative, did not have any perceptible effect upon the liver.
A similar battle, with the outcome still in doubt, now rages between the government forces and the makers of Geritol, a vitamin proposition that for eleven years has defied the orders of the Federal Trade Commission to cease and desist from claiming that there is a widespread pathological condition known to medical science as Tired Blood. Geritol comes to the rescue with “iron power,” provided that one has iron deficiency, which is highly unlikely.
How does Geritol go about enriching the hemoglobin, putting the old moxie back into your blood cells, right from the first spoonful?
Well, you see …