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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 15, 1999

DRUGGISTS' RESPONSIBILITIES.

Author Affiliations
 

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 1999;282(23):2196D. doi:10.1001/jama.282.23.2196D-JJY90041-3-1

A suit was recently brought against a Pittsburgh druggist1 by a woman who asked $20,000 damage for the death of her daughter, which she claimed was due to a headache powder sold by the defendant. The judge non-suited the case, holding that the druggist was not guilty of any negligence and incurred no responsibility for the effects of the drug, even admitting that they were such as claimed. The case caused much local comment and the question is asked: Who is responsible if the vendor is not, and what protection has the public against accidents from dangerous drugs not sold as such, but put out as harmless remedies for self-prescription and general use? The general opinion among wholesale and retail dealers in drugs appears to be, according to interviews reported in the Pittsburgh papers, that the seller can not be held responsible, at least not for the dispensing of unbroken packages bearing the U. S. revenue stamps, as is the case with the copy-righted and proprietary remedies. Since this suit was begun, some of the Pittsburgh druggists have affixed a label disclaiming responsibility on the packages of proprietary remedies, and they are interested to learn whether by so doing they have been in any way transgressing the federal law in regard to stamped articles. The court's action seems to place responsibility, if anywhere, farther back than the seller, but the case may be carried to a higher court, and the questions it involved are still far from being fully settled. As far as the public is concerned it has one safeguard, easy to apply, that is, not to buy such preparations. In this country, more than in any other, people are supposed to look out for themselves, and heretofore this has seemed to be the practical if not the legal principle in these matters. Now that the questions have been raised, it may be that we shall obtain some decisions or ultimately some legislation for the public protection against dangerous, or possibly dangerous, popular remedies, secret or otherwise.

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