The Medical Messiahs:
A Social History of Health Quackery
in Twentieth-Century America

Chapter 18: Anti-Quackery, Inc.

James Harvey Young, PhD

"We hope ... [this meeting] will be the beginning of a hard-hitting and revitalized crusade by private and governmental agencies against the hucksters of pseudomedicine."

—C. Joseph Stetler, American Medical Association, 1961 [1]

Just as, a little later, it was with a sense of shock that an affluent America rediscovered poverty, so was it with shock that, in the mid-1950's, a scientific America rediscovered quackery. Not that either poverty or quackery had been gone or really forgotten. Major emphases, main preoccupations, had just lain in other directions. For both physician and layman, from the late 1930's on, the engrossing theme had been real cures through the miracle of chemotherapy. Was it not a fair assumption that, as the sulfas, penicillin, and other potent new drugs expanded their zone of lifesaving power, the territory should shrink in which quacks could profitably operate? Was it not to be anticipated that earnest enforcement of the new laws which Congress had given to the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission in 1938 would reduce the amount of quackery, perhaps virtually eliminate it altogether?

This did not happen. Widely advertised proprietaries sold to the layman for self-dosage did improve, both in therapeutic quality and in the restraint—if not always in the taste—of advertising claims. Many dangerous deceptions and valueless products were banished from the market. But unscrupulous promoters of pseudo-medical wares had always been agile, and once again, as so often in the past, they adjusted to new demands. Preceding chapters offer ample testimony to their resourcefulness. They enhanced the subtlety of their appeals. They entered grey therapeutic zones where medical knowledge was still ambiguous, regulatory authority still untested. They even profited from the widespread public eagerness to embrace the chemotherapeutic revolution, realizing that John Doe did not possess the judgment to differentiate between a true miracle drug and a false article offered with miraculous claims. Thus pseudo-medicine continued to prosper.

The professional foes of quackery had never been beguiled into thinking quackery dead or even moribund. They met too many cases in their day-by-day routine. Regulators at the FDA, the FTC, the Post Office Department, officials at the AMA, the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation, the National Better Business Bureau, all recognized that quackery was very much alive. But even they, in the mid-1950's, began to exhibit some surprise at quackery's immensity and truculence. That the "good old days" of quackery were still, "to a very great extent," extant in 1955 impressed the Food and Drug Commissioner as an "amazing fact." That medical mail frauds had never before been so great in compass struck the Postmaster General in 1957 as a matter of awesome import. That so many arthritics were being deceived by quackery to such a great degree in 1959 seemed to an Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation researcher "astonishing." When the separate pieces of pseudo-medical deception were put together by one of the first of a new wave of nostrum muckraking journalists, the total cost to the American public came to a billion dollars a year [2].

It was not size alone that shocked quackery's most knowledgeable enemies into reassessing its significance. The belligerence with which major promoters fought back against regulatory attack was likewise astounding. Nor were these engagements separate and isolated battles. The foe seemed intent on leaguing together. Harry Hoxsey's conduct was the major case in point. He persuaded and bought allies where he could, from the naturopaths and chiropractors, from the device promoters and the nutritional proprietors, from the radical fringe of religion and politics, from the Senate of the United States. Hoxsey worked hand in glove with the National Health Federation, formed by leading gadget and food fad promoters also under pressure from regulatory agencies. Waving the banner of "Medical freedom," these groups spent thousands for propaganda in an appeal to millions of Americans who were in some way disenchanted with life-the sick, the unhappy, the ignorant, the illogical, the fearful, the bored, the lonely. As the hundreds of angry letters and petitions deluging Washington gave proof, such propaganda found ready converts, men and women willing to believe that the evil conspiracy with respect to American health lay not among the medical irregulars, but among bureaucrats, doctors, and makers of drugs. That such a significant segment of the public could be brought to believe such a colossal reversal of the true facts deeply disturbed all those whose task it was to combat quackery. Somehow, despite their successes, they bad failed [3].

What those closest to quackery came to realize about its tenacity, magnitude, and arrogance, the broader public eventually came to know. The hazards of pseudo-medicine became a theme widely treated in printed and broadcast journalism. This came in part from deliberate efforts by government, medical, and business groups, themselves newly aware of the threat, to sound a broader alarm. The revived antiquackery crusade was also furthered by journalists who recognized an important and newsworthy theme, some of whom criticized federal agencies for falling short in their efforts to subdue the charlatans.

With respect to the Food and Drug Administration, it was not journalists only who raised the point as to whether the agency's educational efforts against quackery had been sufficient. A Citizens Advisory Committee, appointed by the first Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Oveta Culp Hobby, concluded in 1955 that the FDA had fallen short of its goal. Most Americans, the committee believed, were "very poorly informed" both about hazards in the food and drug field and about the FDA's protective role. Americans, indeed, were probably less aware of such crucial matters in 1955 than they had been in 1906 when the first national law was passed. The educational campaign should be markedly inceased, the committee counseled. Action must be taken to "inform the public in specific terms against quackery, especially where real hazard to health is involved" [4]

To be sure, the FDA's resources for this and all its tasks were "woefully inadequate." Fewer enforcement personnel manned the agency in 1955, the committee pointed out, than in 1941. As the agency's job had grown, its funds had fallen. Ironically, a major reason for this state of affairs had been the FDA's enforcement vigor. Although the Citizens Advisory Committee did not say so, the trade press speculated that, as had happened before, members of Congress had taken offense at some of the actions brought by the FDA and had retaliated by cutting appropriations. Recent low budgets, drug reporters surmised, were largely the result of displeasure on the part of key members of the House Appropriations Committee at the FDA's seizure of some Mountain Valley Mineral Water. The beverage was widely used by Congressmen, and, as President Eisenhower told a press conference, he drank it himself. The FDA had charged that pamphlets promoting the water bore false therapeutic claims and that the labels did not conform to regulations governing special dietary uses [5].

The FDA eventually won the mineral water case, and the Citizens Advisory Committee report persuaded most members of Congress that starving the FDA posed grave threats to the national health. Appropriations started upward, and the FDA reinvigorated both its educational and regulatory campaigns against medical quackery. Public awareness of the agency's mission gained, during 1956, from the commemoration of the golden anniversary of the first Pure Food and Drugs Act. A portrait of Harvey Washington Wiley, the redoubtable old warrior who had fathered the law, even appeared on a postage stamp. By mid-1957, the agency could report " More defendants . . . serving jail sentences for false curative claims than at any time in FDA history," A Division of Public Information, organized the next year, increased the outflow of press releases. A new Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Arthur Flemming, made headlines by holding press conferences pointing out the dangers of quackery in the nutrition and weight-reducing fields [6].

Obesity deception concerned the Blatnik subcommittee also, at its hearings in 1957, and this stimulated more publicity. The hearings provided choice quotations and vivid facts for journalists, who in any case had already been alerted to the quackery theme by such official expressions as the Postmaster General's pronouncement on its magnitude. Exposure of nostrum frauds had not ceased completely during the years that quackery had been "forgotten." Reporters in various cities—Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, Memphis, for example—had occasionally called attention to some particularly egregious evil. Radio programs had now and then warned of charlatanism. Consumer Reports and Consumers' Research Bulletin, organs of the successors of the guinea pig muckrakers, had cautioned readers against continuing hazards associated with self-dosage products. In the mid-1950's, as officialdom expressed ever graver concern that the "good old days" had by no means been banished, so too did journalism [7].

Typical of the rising tide of nostrum muckraking was a 1957 New York Post series, whose chief author was James Cook. It was he who totted up the staggering monetary total of the nation's nostrum bill: "You spent," the first article began, "a billion dollars for 'patent medicines' in the last year." Cook's ire was not aimed solely at the most extreme examples, like Hoxsey and his "witch-doctor brew." Cook raised grave doubts about self-medication drugs much more respectable: "cold 'remedies' which do not cure colds," "old-fashioned bromides and anti-histaminics" masquerading as "the new 'tranquilizer' drugs," vitamin and mineral mixtures peddled with false nutritional claims. "Many laxative manufacturers," Cook asserted, "are blasting the nation's insides with questionable products while blasting the nation's ears with questionable data on the digestive tract." He named names—Citroid, Sleepeze, Sominex, Geritol—in his critique, and wondered if regulatory laws were strong enough, regulatory officials bold enough, to combat the "quackery, hijinks, and razzle-dazzle" that played consumers for suckers [8].

In Remedies and Rackets, The Truth about Patent Medicines Today, Cook revamped and amplified the Post series into a hard-hitting book. Bolstered by data from the Blatnik hearings and from the increasing flood of articles written by fellow journalists, he told the nation what he had earlier reported to New Yorkers. By now, Cook said, America contained "170,000,000 Guinea Pigs," and, although regulatory agencies provided some protection, "in the patent medicine jungle" it was "every man for himself." Consumers, he argued, should insist on stronger laws and better enforcement of existing laws, through bigger appropriations to the agencies and "more skill and energy from the regulators. But basically the health-pursuing public needed to rely on their own protective efforts. They should learn where they could find out the truth about self-medication wares and then apply that knowledge in their own buying. Above all, skepticism and caution were, required [9].

In the reviving anti-quackery crusade, others besides governmental officials and muckraking journalists shared. The National Better Business Bureau, while not displaying the suspicion of virtually all self-medication wares which some critics manifested, took note of the "frightening increase in the number and flamboyancy of fraudulent or misleading advertisements for over-the-counter drug products." Reflecting both the state of the market and the level of public concern, complaints to the Bureau reached an all-time high. In 1958 the NBBB reported five times as many inquiries about drug and cosmetic advertising as three years earlier. "Lamentably," their bulletin stated, complaints were ten times as great. Maye Russ, the dedicated and competent director of the Bureau's food and drug division, set up in 1956, proved a star witness at the Blatnik bearings. Miss Russ saw to the issuance of an increasing stream of bulletins to the Bureau's clientele, reporting on a wide spectrum of health deceptions-obesity drugs and devices, cold remedies, "royal jelly" rejuvenators, bust developers, a book of advice to arthritics, a polio preventive scheme [10].

Besides urging advertising media to bar disreputable health advertising, the National Better Business Bureau sought to persuade newspapers, magazines, radio, and television to raise standards so that promotion of legitimate drug products might become less offensive. In this campaign, the NBBB received both prodding and backing from the AMA. Some changes occurred in media advertising codes as a result. But the basic problems of excessive implied claims and of questionable taste in such proprietary advertising continued [11].

The American Medical Association also took note of and responded to the burgeoning quackery of the mid-1950's. Oliver Field, one of Dr. Cramp's successors at the helm of the Department of Investigation, found, as he opened his mail, cancer, nutritional, and device quackery to be the major areas of pseudo-medicine about which his correspondents were inquiring. A lawyer and former Food and Drug inspector, Field markedly increased the pace of his peregrinations around the country, speaking in his genial way to hundreds of lay and medical audiences, showing them examples of quackdom's most ludicrous but dangerous inventions. The AMA assembled exhibits designed to warn the public about "Mechanical Quackery," to reveal how charlatans went about "Fooling the Fat," to expose the tricks of "Modern Medical Pitchmen." These exhibits were shipped to meetings and conventions and, in time, were translated first into color slide-film presentations, then into movies. Old anti-quackery pamphlets were updated, and new ones written, and were distributed by the thousand. The pages of the AMA's popular health magazine for laymen, Today's Health, successor to Hygeia, began to reveal much greater emphasis than in many years on anti-quackery themes. In 1960, AMA officialdom called on all physicians to join in a national campaign to alert the public to the wasted money and blighted hopes resulting from reliance on medical quackery and food faddism [12].

Voluntary health associations also responded with reinvigorated efforts to expose and oppose quackery's growing menace. Especially significant were continuing campaigns by the American Cancer Society and the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation. In 1955 the American Cancer Society created a Committee on Quackery. Desiring to place emphasis on unproved methods rather than on unorthodox persons, and wishing to remain open-minded about the possibility that a valuable agent might come from an unlikely source, the Society soon changed the name to the Committee on New and Unproved Methods of Cancer Treatment. Information was gathered on medically unrecognized drugs and regimens vended for use in cancer therapy which had been on the market for years or were newly appearing. A similar catalogue had been in the process of compilation since 1950 through the investigations of the Committee on Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy of the National Research Council. In 1957 this committee was dissolved, and its data were transferred to the American Cancer Society's growing storehouse of information. On the basis of this evidence, the committee began the issuance of a series of factual, sober reports, to the medical profession and to the public. No unheralded miracle treatments for cancer were discovered. Reports invariably concluded, "After careful study of the literature and other information available to it, the American Cancer Society has found no acceptable evidence that treatment with . . . [this method] results in any objective benefit in the treatment of cancer in human beings." [13]

The committee also prepared background reports on cancer quackery for the press and warning pamphlets for the common citizen. It urged upon state medical societies the creation of cancer committees and the need for more effective state laws. Several states, most notably California, enacted legislation strong enough to ferret out and stop the impositions of quacks. The committee spurred local branches of the American Cancer Society to intensify the educational campaign, through radio panels, the showing of movies, the distribution of warning literature. Yet after five years of diligent effort, the committee's director, Dr. Roald Grant, concluded that "the steps so far taken" had "only pointed the way in the struggle to control cancer quackery." [14]

Arthritis quackery shared abundantly in the new boom days of pseudo-medicine. In one year a single firm spent as much money to promote its arthritis medicine over network television—the sum was $800,000—as the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation dispensed for arthritis research. Like the American Cancer Society, the Foundation sought to intensify its campaign of educating the public against hazards inherent in self-treatment. As part of this campaign, the Foundation sponsored the first systematic study, with respect to a single disease, of the magnitude of the problem. Making national estimates on the basis of a survey of 3,000 arthritic sufferers, Ruth Walrad concluded that "arthritics spend their drug money not wisely but too well." The disease in its various forms provided a well-nigh perfect field for the impostor to exploit. Excruciatingly painful, arthritis drove its victims to almost any expedient in the hope of relief. For the major forms of the disease, professional medicine had found no cure. Frequently the disease waxed and waned in intensity. If a sufferer had used a specious drug or device just prior to a period of remission, he credited the treatment with his relief and often became an enthusiastic proponent for the treatment among other arthritis victims. Since 11 million Americans-one out of every 15-had arthritis, the potential market for misrepresented wares was great. Some forms of arthritis become worse as the victims advance in age, so the growing ranks of America's senior citizens proved especially vulnerable to this form of quackery [15].

A conservative estimate, Miss Walrad concluded, of the annual sum spent by arthritis sufferers for proprietary products (excluding plain aspirin) and for treatment at clinics and spas amounted to $435 million. Over half of this amount, she wrote, some $252 million a year, was wasted, spent on drugs and devices whose value was misrepresented. Five million of the nation's 11 million arthritis victims fell prey to such deceptions.

In the pages of her book, Miss Walrad proceeded to describe many of the exotic drugs, "glorified aspirins," food supplements, devices, treatment centers' books of advice, either harmful and worthless or oversold with exaggerated promises, which contributed to the quarter-of-a-billion annual arthritis cheat. Building on the solid factual basis of Miss Walrad's research, the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation enlarged the scope of its publicity. With press releases and speaking tours by its officials, especially by Dr. Ronald W. Lamont-Havers, its medical director, the Foundation sought to apprise the nation about the magnitude of arthritis quackery. Through a steady flow of Medical Department Memos and Product Bulletins to its local chapters, the Foundation strove to increase similar educational efforts on the regional level." [16].

Thus, as the 1950's drew to a close and gave way to the 1960's, the United States witnessed a heavier and more persistent barrage of criticism aimed at medical quackery than ever before. Regulatory agencies also kept scoring direct hits on specious promotions by means of victories in court. The Food and Drug Administration, as the previous chapter indicates, after a decade of litigation had by 1960 stopped Hoxsey's cancer activities in both Texas and Pennsylvania and had brought his method of treating cancer virtually to a halt. The FDA had likewise closed in on several of the National Health Federation's major members. When Fred Hart, the Federation's president, violated a 1954 injunction forbidding shipment of his electronic instruments in interstate commerce, the FDA launched criminal contempt proceedings which Hart did not contest. In 1961 Royal Lee, one of the Federation's board of governors, acquiesced without fighting in a sweeping injunction forbidding him and his assorted corporations from ' distributing in interstate commerce more than 115 falsely labeled special dietary products. Another of the Federation's governors, Earl Irons, also a nutritional promoter, served a term in jail [17].

But as the foes of pseudo-medicine surveyed the battleground, they questioned seriously whether the tide was running in their favor. While injunctions stopped new interstate shipments of medical gadgetry, hundreds of quack devices remained in use by deluded or unscrupulous practitioners, who seemed to have no trouble finding eager patients. As old promotions of futile remedies for treating cancer, arthritis, and alleged nutritional deficiencies were brought under control, new ones took their place. Nutri-Bio became a national mania. Creating a sales force built like a military hierarchy, the Nutri-Bio general staff had soon enlisted an army of salesmen that outnumbered all the employees of the Food and Drug Administration by a ratio of 40 to one. Dan Dale Alexander's Arthritis and Common Sense, a book of "worthless advice" in Miss Walrad's judgment, soared to the best-seller list and was read by at least a million and a half arthritics, then reached more through serialization in the press. Krebiozen was rising to the level of the most publicized unorthodox cancer treatment in the whole span of American history. Brought to this country from Argentina by two Yugoslav brothers named Durovic, Krebiozen, a whitish powder said to have been extracted from the blood of horses which had been injected with a micro-organism responsible for "lumpy jaw" in cattle, was presented by its promoters as a cancer cure. It won the dogged allegiance of one of the nation's outstanding scientists, Dr. Andrew Ivy, and of Senator Paul Douglas, although the American Cancer Society considered its claims unproved. While insisting upon governmental tests, the Durovics and Dr. Ivy resisted meeting the National Cancer Institute's testing criteria, criteria which Dr. Ivy had earlier helped formulate. Cancer victims who thought they had been helped by Krebiozen developed into a vocal pressure group at least as powerful as that which had petitioned and picketed for Hoxsey [18].

Faced with this disturbing state of affairs, quackery's foes drew together more solidly. All along regulatory agencies had exchanged information, and among them and voluntary organizations a mutually helpful interchange of data concerning quackery had existed. Fraud fighters at the FDA, the FTC, and the Post Office Department often received tips on new and suspicious promotions from the NBBB, the AMA, and other health associations. Frequently, when investigating a case, federal agencies inquired what information the NBBB and the AMA's Department of Investigation might already have available in their files. In turn, many releases and publications issued by the private associations were devoted to disseminating word of actions launched or completed by men in the agencies of government. To some members of the antiquackery forces it came to seem desirable, even mandatory, to work toward even closer collaboration, to present to the American public in some dramatic way a show of unity. Such a grand gesture might help to awaken the public to quackery's size and style and ever-threatening danger more effectively than the separate warning campaigns had so far done [19].

Prime movers in this venture were the AMA's Oliver Field and the FDA's Director of Public Information, Wallace Janssen. Convincing their superiors of the value of such an enterprise, Field and Janssen began the planning of a National Congress on Medical Quackery, under the joint sponsorship of the AMA and the FDA, to be held in Washington. The goal was to secure widespread coverage of this Congress in news media by reason of the prominence of the speakers who would address it, and to achieve a longer lasting effect by inviting to listen to the speakers opinion leaders from all over the nation concerned with public health and with the integrity of American business [20].

To the National Congress on Medical Quackery during October 1961 came some 700 men and women, from state medical societies and licensing boards, Better Business Bureaus and trade associations, federal and state agencies, medical and pharmacy and nursing schools, health insurance companies, research institutes, women's clubs, societies concerned with arthritis, cancer, diabetes, nutrition. Even a few quacks slipped in under assumed names, pretending to be members of the press [21].

Delegates studied exhibits demonstrating the quack promoter's ingenuity. They saw a "horse collar" that was supposed to cure disease by magnetizing the blood's iron. They pushed a doorbell and heard the actual recorded pitch of a salesman touting a vitamin and alfalfa mix as a sure-fire panacea. They looked at a wooden hut—resembling an old-fashioned privy—in which the patient sat to let "orgone energy" accumulate for banishing his ills. They saw countless pills and potions labeled with shrewd but futile therapeutic claims [22].

The delegates listened intently to a day and a half of speech-making by veteran fighters against pseudo-medicine. Government officials, while not neglecting their successes, made clear their plight. The record of FDA court victories, Commissioner George Larrick noted, was "very small" compared with the total extent of food quackery. In the device field, even after the FDA had secured numerous injunctions against shippers of falsely labeled gadgets, some 3,000 to 5,000 practitioners, especially chiropractors, continued using bogus electrical machines. And whatever kind the case, Larrick said, FDA's burden in court was getting ever more difficult, as proprietors drafted labeling and advertising ever more subtly [23].

This last point was elaborated by William Goodrich, General Counsel for food and drug matters in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In the field of medicine, he reminded his audience, claims for the efficacy of a drug were presumed false until established as true by sufficient pharmacological and clinical evidence. In law, however, a medical claim was presumed to be true until the government proved its falsity by a preponderance of the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. This put a staggering burden upon the FDA—proof that the remedy or gadget in question would never work for the purposes claimed. And this had to be done "in terms that a jury of laymen can grasp." If one juror remained unconvinced, a strange anomaly resulted: the drug or device, although believed by all reputable scientists to be devoid of value, continued in the eyes of the law as useful for health. Physicians were too often reluctant to waste time testing therapeutic wares which they viewed as transparent hoaxes. Yet if hard quackery cases were to be won in court, doctors had to be willing to help regulatory agencies by making such tests and then by testifying. Too "many doctors fear the witness chair almost as much as lawyers fear the operating table." [24]

Other speakers before the Congress raised more serious questions regarding the relations of the medical profession and quackery. Commissioner Larrick condemned the occasional doctor who engaged in "'rigged research—the study that was set up and written to support a claim, rather than to seek for scientific proof." Such a study need not be conclusive. Indeed, in its very inconclusiveness lay its value. "Only enough work is done to point in the proper direction and to get the report published in a medical journal; only enough to raise a doubt, or to put the Government to the task of proof by a preponderance of evidence." Maye Russ of the NBBB cited specific examples of such specious research and made clear that some doctors were still directly engaged in quackery. One recent boom had seen sea water promoted as a virtual cure-all. "The incorporators of one of these firms included four physicians, and its President was an officer of the local medical society." [25]

Physicians came in for other criticism. Dr. Henry Garland condemned "the incompetent or conscienceless fringe" who used orthodox methods of treating cancer but used them incompetently, such as the surgeon who removed only part of an excisable tumor. Dr. Lamont-Havers spoke sadly of physicians who, by their "disinterest and frustration" in treating arthritics, drove dissatisfied patients plagued by pain into the arms of quacks [26].

Criticism was pointed in other directions as well. Too many newspapers and magazines printed flamboyant stories about medical advances that turned out to be specious promotions. "Unquestionably," Dr. Morris Fishbein said, "editors seeking for sensational discoveries will accept articles from science writers who have not been capable of evaluating scientific evidence or who have been led by too persuasive publicity hounds into lending their space to unwarranted exploitation." Book publishers, too, Dr. Lamont-Havers observed, too often published dangerous tomes, their "desire to profit from the gullibility of the arthritic . . . overrid[ing] any feeling of compassion." [27]

Federal agencies were also accused of falling short. In view of the vast quantity of false nutritional claims soaring forth over the nation's airwaves from radio and television stations, Dr. Fredrick Stare of Harvard concluded, the licensing policies of the Federal Communications Commission were much too lenient. Considering that nutritional quackery bulked largest of all forms in money terms, it was regrettable that the FDA, during the previous year, had been able "to devote the services of only eight people to the investigation of lecturers, spielers, and canvassers" in this crucial field of deception [28].

Whatever failings physicians, or regulatory agencies, or self-regulators had been guilty of, the basic evil lay with the greedy quacks themselves. In the continuing confrontation with this enemy, more vigorous law enforcement, supported by more ample funds, was a prime essential. On this the Congress speakers agreed. Self-regulation by media with respect to advertising needed tightening too. Equally fundamental was "an all-out campaign . . . of public education." [29]

Why earlier warnings, issued in such vast quantities by so many agencies, had not so far achieved a greater measure of success was a question not confronted so explicitly by the Congress speakers as it might have been. Some conclusions could have been inferred, perhaps, from references to the deep and complicated phenomenon of which the proneness to quackery consisted. Many speakers alluded to facets of this theme, and an articulate Texan, Dr. William H. Gordon, elucidated with vivid, imaginative case histories various deep forces in human nature to which the quack appealed. Dr. Gordon began his address by citing from Dr. Cramp's favorite book. "One can't believe impossible things," Alice had said. But the White Queen had answered: "I daresay you haven't had much practice. . . . When I was your age . . . I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." [30]

So many people believed so many impossible things about their health, and they seemed ever anxious, for the most compelling reasons, to believe so many more-the countless glittering but impossible promises urged upon them by quackdom's host of clever schemers. The separate educational campaigns by public and private agencies had doubtless done much good, but not enough. Could an intensified educational crusade, spurred by the National Congress on Medical Quackery, using the same techniques of the smaller, isolated campaigns, be expected to succeed much better? Some spoke of quackery as, in some measure, an unyielding accompaniment of human existence. But most speakers took a more optimistic tone, seeming to consider quackery's "final eradication" at least a possibility [31]. The Congress might well have devoted more attention, in view of the complex motivations that prompted people to fall prey to quackery's appeals, to considering ways of fashioning the ongoing educational crusade more subtly.

The nation's news media did give the Congress much publicity. The 700 delegates went home much better informed than they had come, doubtless to use this knowledge in fighting charlatans on the local scene. The desire for unity among quackery's foes persisted. Two years later, again in Washington, a Second National Congress on Medical Quackery convened. This time delegates listened to a more probing analysis of the deep currents of human nature so fundamental to quackery's continuing appeal [32].


  1. Proceedings, National Congress on Medical Quackery, Oct. 6-7, 1961 (Chicago, 1962), 1.
  2. George Larrick, "Our Unfinished Business," FDC Law MI., 10 (Mar. 1955), 168; Arthur Summerfield, cited in Post Office Dept. release, May 12, 1957; Ruth Walrad, The Misrepresentation of Arthritis Drugs and Devices in the United States (N.Y., 1960), 98; N.Y. Post, May 20, 1957.
  3. See ch. 17.
  4. Citizens Advisory Committee . . . Report, House Document 227 (84 Cong., 1 ses., 1955).
  5. Ibid.; FDA Reports, Jan 23, 1954, white 13; Nov. 6, 1954, pink 3; June 11, 1956, 9; Drug Trade News, 17 (Aug. 26, 1957), 12. During 1954, Congress, in passing a bill to re-codify food and drug law, had modified the language so as to eliminate FDA's authority to employ its multiple seizure weapon. At FDA's request, Eisenhower vetoed the bill. FDC Reports, Sep. 4, 1954, white 12; Sep. 11, 1954, white 9.
  6. Food NJ 26597; DDNJ 6023; Larrick, "Report from the Food and Drug Administration," FDC Law Jnl,, 13 (Mar. 1958), 151-52; Wallace F. Janssen, "Public information under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act," ibid., 12 (Jan. 1957), 57-61; (Feb. 1957), 93-98, (Apr. 1957), 229-35; (Sep. 1957), 566-76; Cincinnati District annual report, 1957, FDA Decimal file .053, FDA; 1957 Report of the Food and Drug Administration, 193, 194; 1958 Report, 196; HEW press releases, Nov. 18, 1958, Jan. 13 and Sep. 2, 1959.
  7. See ch. 14. JAMA, 144 (Oct. 28, 1950), 764, summarizes several recent newspaper attacks on quackery. F&D Rev., 35 (Nov. 1951), 248, and 37 (Sep. 1953), 176, tells of anti-quackery radio programs. Consumer Reports: "The Antihistamines," 15 (Jan. 1950), 710; "Chlorophyll: Latest Drug Fad" (Oct. 1950), 458-59; "An FTC Failure" and "An FTC Success," 16 (June 1951), 268-77; "Another Obesity 'Cure,'" 17 (July 1952), 347-48; "Coughs and Cough Remedies," 19 (Jan. 1954), 336-40. Consumers' Research Bulletin. comments in "The Consumers' Observation Post:' 27 (Apr. 1951), 4; (Sep. 1951)2 3; 29 (Apr. 1952), 29; 35 (Feb. 1955), 3.
  8. N.Y. Post, May 20-June 2, 1957, passim.
  9. James Cook, Remedies and Rackets (N.Y., 1958), especially 219-37. Along with the extensive newspaper and magazine exposure, another key book appeared: Ralph Lee Smith, The Health Hucksters (N.Y., 1900).
  10. NBBB release, "False Advertising of Over-the-Counter Drugs," Oct. 27, 1958; False and Misleading Advertising (Weight-Reducing Preparations): Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives (85 Cong., I ses., 1957), 2753; NBBB Service Bulletin, Nos. 1478, 1541, 1550, 1551, 1566, 1573, 1589, 1593, 1613, 1614, 1626, 1630, 1662 (1954-1959).
  11. See ch. 14. Advertising Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Commerce, Self-Regulation in Advertising: A Report on the Operations of Private Enterprise in an Important Area of Public Responsibility (Dept. of Commerce: Washington, 1964); Irving Ladimer [of the NBBBI], "Advertising of Drugs to the Public: Ethical and Social Considerations," in Francis X. Quinn, ed., Ethics, Advertising and Responsibility (Westminster, Md., 1963), 65-66; Daniel J. Murphy [of the FTC], "Truthful Advertising," in ibid., 137.
  12. "Reports of the Bureau of Investigation" folder [reports, 195019591, in Dept. of Investigation, AMA; "New AMA Campaign," AMA News, 3 (Oct. 3, 1960), 4. Examples of articles in Today's Health are Max Millman, "The Reducing Racket, 32 (Jan. 1954), 18-19; Veronica L. Conley, "Quackery and Baldness," 33 (Jan. 1955), 37; "What Does Quack Mean to You?," (Apr. 1955), 56-57; Conley, "Don't Abuse Your Skin," 34 (Mar. 1956), 49; Jack Kytle, "Don't Help the Quacks" (Nov. 1956), 13; Charles W. Hock, "Laxatives: A $148-Million Fraud?," 38 (Oct. 1960), 30-31.
  13. Roald N. Grant, et aL, "Progress against Cancer Quackery," JAMA, 175 (Feb. 4, 1961), 401-402; Grant, "Worthless Cancer Remedics—A Challenge to Society and Medicine," undated mimeographed text of speech; L. Henry Garland, "Investigation of Cancer Remedies", National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council News Report, 7 (Sep.-Oct. 1957), 73-77; "Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment" are published periodically in Ca-A Cancer Jul. for Clinicians and distributed as reprints.
  14. Grant, "Progress against Cancer Quackery"; Garland, "California Outlaws the Cancer Quack," Today's Health, 37 (Aug. 1959), 30-31, 68-71; pamphlets entitled "Unproved Cancer Therapy a Continuing Challenge" and "I Have a Secret Cure for Cancer!"; Roald Grant and Irene Bartlett, "Unproven Cancer Remedies—a Primer," Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment, 2-20.
  15. Kenneth N. Anderson, "What You Should Know about Phony Arthritis Remedies," Today's Health, 39 (July 1961), 32-33; Walrad, The Misrepresentation of Arthritis Drugs, 1-4, 67-71.
  16. Ibid., 67-100; Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation Memos, Sep. 29, 1958-Sep. 15, 1960; Committee on Arthritis Advertising of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation, Product Bulletins, May 11, 1961-June 15, 1962, provided by the Foundation.
  17. DDNJ 4667 and 7303 (Hart); DDNJ 7077 (Lee); DDNJ 5308 (Irons).
  18. George P. Larrick to author, Apr. 21, 1964; "A Background Paper on Krebiozen from the American Cancer Society," June 19, 1959; "Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment: Report on the Current Status of Krebiozen," Ca-A Cancer Jnl. for Clinicians, 13 (1963), 76-78; Warren R. Young, "What Ever Happened to Dr. Ivy," Life, 57 (Oct. 9, 1964), 11off.; interview with Morris Fishbein, May 15, 1961; NBBB Report, Oct. 25 and Nov. 9, 1961; FDA news releases, Nov. 27 and Dec. 7, 1961; Newsweek, 58 (July 31, 1961), 60; James L. Trawick (FDA), "Modem Faces of Quackery," typed copy of Apr. 15, 1966, speech; Walrad, The Misrepresentation of Arthritis Drugs, 79; Ernest Havemann, "No More a Headache, Book Business Booms," Life, 50 (May 12, 1961), 117; Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment, 62-64.
  19. Reference to information provided federal agencies by the NBBB and AMA appears in the Blatnik subcommittee hearings, p. 28, and in the AMA "Reports of the Bureau of Investigation" folder. Files of all the voluntary agencies' reports to their membership summarize actions taken by FDA, FTC, and the Post Office Department.
  20. Interviews with Field and Janssen, Oct. 6, 1961.
  21. Ibid. as to quacks attending. "Those in Attendance," Proceedings, National Congress on Medical Quackery, 94-113.
  22. Notes made at the Congress.
  23. Proceedings, National Congress on Medical Quackery, 12-18.
  24. Ibid., 19-23.
  25. Ibid., 17, 54-59.
  26. Ibid., 46, 52.
  27. Ibid., 53, 90.
  28. Ibid., 66-71.
  29. Ibid., passim, quotation from p. 59.
  30. Ibid., 49-55. Dr. Gordon's address, "The Keys to Quackery," is reprinted, 33-41.
  31. All speakers at the Congress believed it possible to reduce quackery substantially. Some talked as if quackery might in time be completely eradicated: ibid., Abraham Ribicoff, 4; Dr. Leonard W. Larson, 7; Herbert J. Miller, Jr., 11; Goodrich, 19. Other speakers suggested that a complete victory could never be won: Paul Rand Dixon, 54; Russ, 59; Field, 64; Dr. Harold E. Jervey, Jr., 84.
  32. See, for example, articles in Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 1, 1961; N.Y. Times, Oct. 7 and 8, 1961; Wash. Post, Oct. 7 and 8, 1961; This Week Magazine, Oct. 8, 1961; Medical Tribune, Oct. 23, 1961. Proceedings, Second National Congress on Medical Quackery, Oct. 2526, 1963 (Chicago, 1964). See ch. 20.

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