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November 10, 1906


Author Affiliations

Chief of Drug Laboratory, Bureau of Chemistry, U. S. Department of Agriculture. WASHINGTON, D. C.

JAMA. 1906;XLVII(19):1546-1550. doi:10.1001/jama.1906.25210190026001k

The charge is frequently made that, in discussing the so-called "patent medicines," writers and speakers are extremely uncharitable in that they do not even attempt to differentiate between the good and the bad, but class them all under the unsavory term "nostrum," which embraces everything that pertains to charlatanism and fraud. In order that there may be no misunderstanding, permit me to state at the outset that in this paper nothing will be considered except what will be denominated by the most charitably inclined as nostrums.

The chief transgression of nostrums lies not so much in the composition of the remedies as in the methods used for exploiting them. Most of the medicines employed by nostrum venders consist of one or more drugs of recognized merit. The fraudulent element lies, to a very large extent, in the mystic, misleading and deceptive advertising literature employed for exploiting them. It seems that