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Thursday, 2 August 1906
Page: 2245

Dear Sir,

In reply to your questions re the effect of poisonous drugs sold under secret formula, I beg to give the following emphatic and decisive answers : -

1.   From general, and, I may say, universal, constant, and persistent knowledge, there can be no shadow of doubt that the wholesale prescribing of drugs of this class does lead to an enormous sale of the same, with a proportionate consumption.

2.   There most distinctly is a debasement of morals as a direct consequence; of this I have personally seen and known many examples.

3.   To my certain knowledge and belief, there is such a debasement as can only be described by the word debauchery, especially among women, resulting from the use of these articles. The evil therefrom is of very grave national importance. It has increased of late years, and is still increasing. 4 and 5. There is a widespread and probably lasting injury done to infants and young children by the indiscriminate use of narcotics, though I personally hold a very strong opinion that it is not so much injury as death which is inflicted upon them, a death which is invariably ascribed to some other cause.

6.   Under no heading at all can I approve of nurses and mothers administering such drugs to nurselings and children. It is a wicked and bad practice from any and every point of view.

7.   There is a very large increase in the use of synthetic remedies as so-called headache powders, &c. These are dangerous to the heart, and cause many fatal accidents. They should never be administered except under strict medical supervision.

8.   I am quite convinced that the amount of suffering and the number of deaths are grossly out of proportion to the publicly recorded cases. Not a tithe of the cases ever get into print as such. I should be pretty certain that not even 1 per cent, of the mischief is recorded, or even suspected, by the average layman.

I have not the slightest objection to these opinions being made as public as necessary. (Signed) Fred. J. Smith, M.D., F.R.C.P.,

Physician to the London Hospital, Editor of Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence, Pathologist for fifteen years to the London Hospital.

In a letter which he sent to the Right Hon. Herbert J. Gladstone, Mr. Beale wrote -

To add to this, recently I received a report from a friend in Washington, showing that thousands of children died every year through these medicines, and the tragedy of it is all the more intensified because the stuff is administered by mothers who' do rot know the effects of the mixtures they are giving their children. I am of the opinion that laws should be made that it would be required to show what patent medicines contained. It should be set down that all drugs containing alcohol and narcotics, and other patent drugs, should have the percentages of these drugs printed on the labels of bottles. If not, the shadow of the undertaker will mingle with that of the medical profession.

I propose to read one or two other extracts from some of Mr. Beale's communications to the Prime Minister. For instance, in one of these he says -

It is an inflexible rule of the British Medical Association that no remedy shall be secret. Plainly that is to the public interest. More than that, it is an urgent demand on humanity. No such maxim could be upheld, still less enforced by a public body, through generations, unless it were an actuating principle in the common life of its members.

He goes on to state that -

Last evening I received information in a private note from the Governor-General of Canada relating to other matters, that the Dominion Parliament has appointed a Committee from both sides of the House to prepare legislation to remedy the evil of uncontrolled sale of secret drugs. He himself has addressed a medical society in strong denunciation of the homicidal traffic.

The following resolutions were passed at the semi-annual meeting of the Board of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Province of Quebec in July, 1904: -

That the attention of the Federal Government be called upon the mis-uses, serious accidents, and numerous losses of life resulting from the present trade of patent medicines and pharmaceutical preparations, and that the Government be requested to have Parliament pass the required legislation, so as to exercise an effective control on the sale of these medicines and preparations.

That, in the opinion of the College of Physicians, the sale of any such preparations should not be allowed unless each package or each bottle bears the name of the remedy, the quantity of each dose, as well as the name of the manufacturer, the seller, and the price.

It would be an easy matter to read further quotations from reports of commissions, which have dealt with this question, and also from the writings of medical men; but I do not think it is necessary to do so. It would certainly be highly advantageous to the public if these articles were plainly marked, so as to indicate of what' they were composed. In the case of a sound preparation no difficulty would be placed in the way of the carrying out of this proposal, whilst no one should be permitted to publish " puff " advertisements calculated to foist on the public that which is valueless. When I was in Sydney - I think it was in January last - I received a letter from a man in the Cobar district, with whom I was not acquainted, inquiring as to the efficacy off a certain patent medicine. It seems that my name had been associated with an advertisement relating to Pink Pills. Some one in Broken Hill had stated that he was a life-long friend of mine, and that he had signed before me a statement that he had been cured by taking Fink Pills.. An advertisement to that effect appeared in the Evening News, and this resident of the Cobar district, who was, unfortunately, suffering from consumption, wrote to me inquiring whether the statement was true, saying that if it were he would test the efficacy of the pills. I at once replied that I had never met a man who had been cured of consumption by taking Pink Pills. It is simply scandalous that vendors of pills should be permitted to advertise that persons have been cured of consumption by using them.

Mr Fisher - It is a villainous fraud on the public.

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