One of the cruellest and most despicable phases of the “patent medicine” business is the studied effort made by nostrum exploiters to frighten their victims into the belief that they are suffering from some more or less serious disease. Not content with the sale of their preparations to those who have—or who believe they have—one of the many diseases for which the products are recommended, the “patent medicine” vendors strive to create an artificial demand for their stuff by working on the imagination of the healthy and persuading them that they are sick. The scheme is an old one but none the less disreputable. One of the more recent modifications of this trick is the “gall-stone remedy” fake, a type of which is described in the Pharmacology department of this issue. Hundreds and possibly thousands of people have been humbugged by this scheme and, unless physicians enlighten the public, thousands more will be. Once let people know that they are asked to pay a dollar for a few cents' worth of olive oil and a couple of Seidlitz powders and the number of cases of (imaginary) cholelithiasis will be reduced.
SUGGESTION AND NOSTRUMS. JAMA. 2010;304(12):1391. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1261