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Short Stuff: Sulfanilamide Disaster

2021-07-07 | 🔗

In the 1920s, before the era of consumer protection, a poison entered the medicine supply and killed more than 100 people before the pubic health disaster could be stopped.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Welcome to the short stuff on Josh and there's shod, just a couple, a mellow dude about to talk about one of the worst public health disasters in american history. All right, that's rate in this one came about because we were just talking about this in a fully episode in Little John, she said he we should do a short stuff on that thing, in borrowing about two days later, were doing it. Yet not even today's sitting is the next day and in podcast Way in time, though, she already just came out here, we debated, are immediate response team, but here, which is us yes and we're gonna do on the elixir.
Self anonymize disaster shows. How would you set up both would suffer never mind. That's it. I'm gone with hey man, potato potatoes off anonymize, often our wide. Let's call the whole thing off the exactly which, by the way, I notice is assured stuff too. There's really know no time to discourse, but I hate that song there, let's call holding off yeah hate it yeah. I told you, I think one time about my friend Andrew in LOS Angeles, his friend audition, with that song for a big musical production, and had never heard it really and didn't realize the was to say them differently. So yes,
say tomato and I say, tomato free music. I guess so that all the story and another jack cell, but its friends, learner, Andy Kaufman performance or peace. So we're not talking about that or talking were gone back to nineteen thirty, seven back in the time where there was such a thing as the FDA. There is something called the nineteen o six food drugging, cosmetics ACT, no food, pure food and drug acts are of nineteen o six, which we talked about yesterday and one of the things that it did was. It said there is this thing, this beer of chemistry that will become after but they're just kind of their they're, not really good at what they do yet because we don't have the regulation a let them do what they do, and so under that context, the idea
of medicines was pretty much like the wild West in America. The time yes, I think splitting it looked very kindly yeah earlier in that same decade those of micro biologists name Gerhard Demark, and said here made of great discovery, this compound for neither might or nevermind acts as an antibiotic against strap and we can help strap throat and pharmaceutical company said. This is great. This paper this powder in these tablets and then someone. The mass and gilded as he massing Gill Pharmaceutical Company antennas. He said you know what people really want. This in liquid form get to work. Yeah, there's a guy, the chief chemist too, as a doctor, Harold Watkins, and he started. You know getting to work as they told him to analysis. Job
was that, and so he started dumb tinkering around. He needed a solvent something to dissolve the powdered soften Elamite into a solution water because it doesn't just automatically dissolve so he used the solvent, die atheling glycol ended up coming up yet just seeing that on a label somewhere and should be like I'm going to second guess: the decision about the Thirdly, poison. He went whole hog on it, and so he came up with elixir sofa, Noah Mine, which is ten percent sulphonal. Oh, my the antibiotic, sixteen percent water and seventy two percent die ethylene, glycol yeah yeah and gave it a sweet flavour to the taste was going to give it a pink issue. he added a little bit raspberry extracting said: let's hit the market and guess a kind of spoiled it a second ago, but it is
deadly poison and, as you mentioned in the other episode its related to any freeze which is not good to drink. and it kills you in horrific ways it it really. Rex your kidney, your kidneys, ITALY shut down, but along the way you will be vomiting and agitated and have seizures in convulsions, terrible intense pain, unrelenting pain, and they did know this because you didn't Kara, carry out any test on the stuff, not just to make it but to sell it. They didn't untested out before they put it on the shelves, mainly because the I didn't see you had to at the time. Nobody did you see that quo about you describe a single company. I think, even among you know, under the law these, where they were kind of seem as renegades every year, the court from the investigator. Apparently they just throw down
together and if they don't explode their placed on sale, and that's at that time like in the thirties right so the mass and go company they made two hundred and forty gowns initially of elixir. Sulfonal am I'd of this deadly deadly poison, inserted shipping it around the country as medicine I, in September of nineteen thirty, seven within just a couple of weeks. The first DES research to be reported yet- and it wasn't like these days where they find something like this could cause a risk of cancer down the road like you drink this stuff in you die yeah. Yet it was their lad yeah. So I say we take here take a break. This often elamite elixir is out, there is going to kill people and we need to get some commercial messages
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So they call them up and they said hey what you minds just send over that ingredient list. Our way, mass and Gill did Anne here's the thing they didn't really realise at the time. What the deal was like had to do all these. They weren't like wait. A minute. It's got diaphragm like all in it. That's what's killing people does it was had only been around nothing less than a decade or so and They didn't know where they wouldn't have used that, like anything, they wilfully try to kill people know no, certainly not but the amazed you know they had to do test and they started sort of ruling. things out and they have been We found out that like yeah, seventy, whatever two percent of the stuff is, is a deadly in and we need to start getting message out two newspapers and radios in telling people this, but you know that stuff to do in those years. It is because, as will see, the FDA sent a bunch of agents out and they were, they were
to get in touch with the travelling salesmen for mass who were who were like? No didn't have cell phones. They would, you know, maybe believe, affording addressed at a hotel that you'd have go shake down here. You draw the road you gotta go chased them down find that they were already to see. Beyond that last forwarding address. In the end, they are doing this in the context of likeness the race against the clock that there's two hundred and forty gowns of this stuff out there and people are being prescribed it and you're. Trying to find this travelling salesmen can point in the direction where these things were shipped to yet they also entered with mass and Gill, and they went yeah we now. It's killing people and we're trying to get it back to we sent out these memos and on the wire, and these telegram
I'm saying that you know we'd like this stuff back and it could be dangerous. Then atheists, it now manson different telegrams, saying you have to do this. It is kill, killing people right and they did. I mean they. They complied that you get the impression that the Mass NGO company was rather reluctant partner to the FDA I would find, but they did eventually do they took all the right steps of the FDA was kind of directing them too, and so the FDA sent out all those field. Agents in the field agents would have trouble. You know tracking down a sales person, sometimes when they got in touch with the one they salesman. They would be worried about the company's image, so they would just not tell him who they sold
things too, and so they have to go through sales slips. You know pharmacies around the country and when they would finally get in touch with doctors and pharmacists, they be worried about their legal liability, so they wouldn't be forthcoming. With any of this, information to must have just been really frustrating. You know means they. Ve got doctors that our cooperating some of them did. I think there was one story he found where the doktor actually postponed his wedding justice, help find one patient whose family to the mountains with secured and took a bottle of that stuff along doktor had given him, but you know some are more cooperative than others. I think the FDA didn't have the teeth I'm that they do now and they could not force call of a drug they were able to through sort of a loophole in it. It was called all the elixir in. on the label. It was labelled as such, but apparent unless it contained
alcohol. It's not like Isn't that right, yeah, it should have been called solution, Sulfa Noah might in the negative they called it. Elixir meant that technically it was Miss labelled in it. The FDA did have the ability to seize drugs that were Miss labelled under the night. You guys act YAP, but that was it is like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. They were able to get this this antibiotic back on this technical neither was Miss named, but that's what they proceeded under, and so they were able to eventually get two hundred and thirty or gallons in one pint of the two hundred and forty gallons, that had been produced. Yeah? very great effort. I think in the end two hundred and five men, women and kids were killed. I think, or was it that's total right Yes, seventy one adults and thirty, four kids, ok, and they If they hadn't, I mean if that Lou
Hoddan existed that amount of liquid would have ended up killing about four thousand people. Yeah, and I mean it depending on how they were prescribed, how much they are prescribed they some of them. I'd in today, some of them took three weeks to die. They all died. Agonizing does. But the idea that in a thousands, more people could have died at the FDA not been able to do something about is pretty you know, he's got a wife, her forehead our dear doktor, Harold Wagons, that we mention the messenger chief chemist. I took his own life very sadly, there was a lot of survival. Skilled alot of physicians as well as people that worked at massing, go we're just wrecked with. afterward for a long time, one The doctors from Mount Olive wrote to the president to at the hour and said: please pass some more oversight measures over medicines, because,
of my patients, including my best friend, or not dead, because what I gave them yeah the doktor. I have to give a shadow is quoted in nineteen. Eighty one FDA Consumer magazine article with the title taste of raspberries taste of death Colin, know Jack. That's it no going now, oh and comments that have been Poland, the rise and fall of the deadly elixir, colon there is another death related to a to chuck remember how we were say: hey. You said that the FDA just didn't have any the teeth to make to enforce this while they got the teeth. Urban legislation kicking around and Washington to update that that one thousand nine hundred and six act, and when this happened you know the public outcry
so much that help this logic get it pass, but it was under the championship of Senator Royal Copeland of New York who sponsor that bill and he dropped dead of exhaustion four days after it was past. Whenever I see that and think, and what else yeah, but how many days of cigarettes to Dixon? I think there was a what else for sure, but you know I mean I think I think there is some truth to no other. We read that. I think that that was, I think, that's wise to take died of exhaustion as a green assault agree, you gonna tell him it sought to eat. He. U can die from salt. Isn't has nothing to do exhausted by another else. Goodwin promises promise kept yes fulfilled. The next day. Since we're done every way that ensures surface Stuff, you should know, is a production of I radio for more pasts. My heart,
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Transcript generated on 2021-07-20.