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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 2, 2000


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Editorial Assistant.

JAMA. 2000;283(5):581. doi:10.1001/jama.283.5.581

When a patent medicine vendor desires to make a specially strong claim for his stuff, he adds to all its other advantages that it has the endorsement of physicians. If by hook or by crook a man who can write "M.D." after his name can be cajoled or bribed to sign a testimonial in favor of a patent nostrum, that testimonial will be kept on duty until the paper fades and the ink has lost its blackness. There are various ways in which to get these endorsements, the most business-like being to buy them outright, provided it does not cost too much. But there is another and better scheme than this. It is to get the doctors to use the nostrum for a while; get them to prescribe and endorse it by writing it up in the medical journals and by talking about it in medical societies. To do this takes time, energy, and no small amount of tact in advertising. The nostrum vendor must give the doctors a present occasionally, such as a pocket-book with an imitation dollar in it; a case containing an assortment of the nostrum to carry in their vest pocket—so they won't forget it—etc., and then he must supply them with an attractive sign to hang on the office wall. This is an especially good thing to do if the sign is ornamental and suggestive. Of course, it must contain the name of the nostrum in plain letters so that all patients can see it easily. A calendar is a good thing, as it will last for a year and yet will change every month. In this way the promoter of the nostrum keeps on the good side of the doctor and can then work him to work the people. It is a great scheme, because money can be made from the start. After the doctors have been used long enough to make the necessary impression on the people, the latter can be handled direct through the newspapers. This method has been used many times in the past, as it is being used now, and will be so long as physicians are such willing tools. These agreeable reflections are called forth through the kindness of a friend who has sent us a clipping from a newspaper called The Mirror. The article is entitled "Mr. Ingalls and Women," although it is difficult to understand just what Ex-Senator Ingalls has to do with the subject, unless it be that he, like the doctors, is used as a tool with which to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Here is the "meat" of the article, which of course is a paid advertisement, without further comment: