McGoogan News

From the archives: 19th century “patent medicines”

By John Schleicher

The term “patent medicine” was used to describe medicinal compounds in the 19th century, which were sold with creative names and even more outrageous claims.  Also sometimes known as proprietary medicines, these remedies, for the most part, were indeed not patented but only trademarked.Pinkham label

The term “patent” denoted medications whose compounds had been granted government protection for exclusive recipes. Most makers of these “cures,” often small family-run businesses, used ingredients quite similar to their competitors—vegetable extracts laced with ample doses of alcohol, sugar, and various herbals.  In some cases, these “quack medicines” as they were often called, could be deadly, since there was no regulation of their ingredients. Their effectiveness was questionable and their contents were usually kept secret.

The number of patent medicines diminished greatly after 1906, when Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, implementing public health action against unlabeled or unsafe ingredients, misleading advertising, quackery, and similar questionable practices.

Lydia E. Pinkham (1819-1883), who’s slogan was “yours for health,” was a producer of patent medicines.  Her “Vegetable Compound” (see image from package in the library collection) was recommended “for relieving hot flashes and certain other symptoms associated with “Change of Life” and other [female] distress—not due to organic disease.”  Ingredients in this compound included:  Jamaica dogwood, pleurisy root, black cohosh, life root, licorice, dandelion and gentian.  It also contained 13 ½ % ethyl alcohol—as the label notes, “used solely as a solvent and preservative.” Recommended dosage, “take one tablespoonful four times a day, before meals and at bedtime.”

Services spotlight: literature alerts

Are you conducting long-term research and would like to know when a new article has been written on your topic? The library’s literature alerts service can help. Alerts are searches which run automatically, usually on a weekly basis. The search results are emailed directly to the requestor and are available in Refworks format. Alerts may be set up for the following databases: PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Scopus, or Cochrane. For additional information or to request a literature alert, please contact Cindy Schmidt at 559-7077 or by email at cmschmidt@unmc.edu.

Library training room now available

The McGoogan Library of Medicine has a new room available for use by faculty, staff and students.  The new Wilson Training Room (WH 8011) is available for meetings including videoconferences, training sessions, webinars and other use as needed. Technology includes a pc computer, network connIMG_1197ection, large screen projection, two 50” small-group monitors enabled with Mersive Solstice POD Unlimited which allows user connectivity from any personal device and interaction with the large screen projection, microphone system, and Echo 360 Pro for recording of presentations.  The Wilson Training Room can accommodate up to 33 occupants (this includes the speaker) and has a flexible seating arrangement.    To reserve the Wilson Training Room, contact Danielle Drummond by email at danielle.drummond@unmc.edu or by phone at 402-559-6839.  Availability can be seen on the Outlook calendar entitled “Wilson Training Room”.