October 18, 1985

AMA's Bureau of Investigation exposed fraud

JAMA. 1985;254(15):2043-2046. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360150017002

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The American Medical Association has had a longstanding interest in debunking patent medicines and exposing quacks. Besides its campaign against patent medicine advertisement in the early 20th century (see main story), in fact, for many years the AMA's Bureau of Investigation analyzed suspicious nostrums and alerted both the medical profession and the public to unscrupulous promoters.

Originally headed by Arthur J. Cramp, MD, the bureau was formed in 1906 under the name "Propaganda Department." (Until about 1920, "propaganda" simply meant information.) This department prepared abstracts of government reports on the chemical composition of nostrums seized in interstate commerce. It also arranged to have many widely advertised nostrums examined in the AMA's Chemical Laboratory and published the results in The Journal.

Later years brought increased activity to the department, whose name was changed to the Bureau of Investigation in 1925. The bureau added other forms of quackery to its investigations and