While some states had taken elementary steps toward drug regulation at the turn of the century, the problems of unwarranted promotion of drugs were basically uncontrolled until the passage of the first Pure Food and Drug Law in 1906. This law, judged by today's standards, was totally inadequate but, for the first time, it provided a limited control of interstate traffic in drugs. Judged by the standards of 1906, it was a landmark law of first importance.
Over the following years, some improvements were made in the 1906 statute. For instance, a provision instituted in 1912 made it possible for the government to take action on false therapeutic claims for drugs, but only if it could be established that such claims were made fraudulently.
Then came the Elixir of Sulfanilamide disaster in 1937, which lead to the death of over a hundred people before the product could be removed from
Sadusk JF. The Physician and the Food and Drug AdministrationThe rigorous process of screening drugs for safety and effectiveness benefits the public. JAMA. 1964;190(10):907–909. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070230043011