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Medicine and Madison Avenue Research Guide


1840s - 1870s

Medical discoveries and disease trends

1847: American Medical Association is founded.

1859: Louis Pasteur suggests in a paper that microorganisms may cause many human and animal diseases.

1865: Claude Bernard publishes Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, calling for more use of the experimental method in medicine.

1867: Joseph Lister publishes On the Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery, showing that disinfection reduces post-operative infections.

1879: Louis Pasteur demonstrates value of vaccine to protect sheep against anthrax.

Regulation of advertising and drugs

1872: U.S. Postmaster General is given authority to forbid use of mail to "persons operating fraudulent schemes," which constitutes first federal power to regulate misleading advertising.


Medical discovery and disease trends

1882: Robert Koch isolates microorganism responsible for tuberculosis (TB), then leading cause of death.

1883: Robert Koch isolates microorganism responsible for cholera, major epidemic disease in nineteenth century.

1885: Louis Pasteur develops first rabies vaccine.

Regulations of advertising and drugs

1880: The Farm Journal publishes first "guarantee of advertising," assuring readers that only reputable firms will be allowed to advertise in its pages; other farm periodicals follow suit in the 1880s and 1890s.


Medical discovery and diesease trends

1890: Emil von Behring and Shibasaburo Kitasato develop effective diphtheria antitoxin.

1893: The Johns Hopkins University Medical School, first modern American medical school, opens in Baltimore.

1895: Parke-Davis Company founds first pharmaceutical research laboratory

1897: George Nuttall demonstrates that flie can spread plague bacilli.  Aspirin, a highly effective pain reliever and fever reducer is invented in Germany.


1910: Publication of Carnegie Foundation-financed Flexner Report, which advocated major reform of American medical schools.

1911: German researcher Paul Erhlich tests salveran, first treatmet effective against syphilis; regarded as birth of modern chemotherapy.  Casimir Funk proposes term "vitamine" for substances that prevent deficiency diseases such as scurvy.

1912: Elmer V. McCollum and associates isolate Vitamin A.

1913: American Society for the Control of Cancer, later renamed the American Cancer Society, is founded.

1915: Association for the Prevention and Relief of Heart Disease, later renamed the American Heart Association, is founded.

1916: Polio epidemics break out in New York and Boston; polio outbreaks continue sporadically in summers for decades to come.

1918-1919: An influenza pandemic kills 15 million people worldwide, 600,000 of them in the United States, far more than the number of American soldiers killed in World War I.

Regulation of advertising and drugs

1911: U. S. Supreme Court rules in the case of United States vs. O. A. Johnson that the Food and Drugs Administration may regulate only statements about the contents of food and drugs, not claims about the product's therapeutic value.

1912: The influential advertising trade journal, Printers' Ink, publishes a model statute defining truth in advertising, which later passes in Ohio (1913) and New York State (1921).  The AMA publishes first volume of Nostrumsand Quackery, a compendium of health frauds that went through nine editions. (A second volume appeared in 1922.).  The Sherley Amendment to the 1906 Food and Drugs Act outlaws false claims on packages and labels but not in other advertising media.

1913-1914: The Associated Advertising Clubs of America founds the National Vigilance Committee to promote "truth in advertising" principles.  The Advertising Vigilance Association, the first group organized explicitly to promote truth in advertising, is founded in Boston; other city and state vigilance committees soon form, mostly in Northeastern and Midwestern cities and states. Around 1916 these committees begin to call themselves "Better Business Bureaus."

1914: The Associated Advertising Clubs of America adopts voluntary "truth in advertising" codes.  Federal Trade Commission is established and given regulatory oversight of fair trade practices, including advertising.


Medical dicovery and disease trends

1921: Heart disease becomes leading cause of death in the United States, according to mortality data collected by the Census Bureau.  Frederick G. Banting and C. H. Best isolate insulin, which is first used to treat a person with diabetes a year later.  At the age of 39, future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracts polio, which leaves him permanently paralyzed.

1922: Elmer V. McCollum and associates identify Vitamin D.  George Whipple shows that liver extract counters experimental anemia induced in a dog.

1926: Researchers describe vitamins B1 and B2.  Joseph Goldberger isolates substance that prevents pellagra, a deficiency disease common in the American South.   

1927: Cancer becomes one of the top three causes of death, according to U.S. Census Bureau. (It alternates with influenza and pneumonia in either the second or third spot thereafter).

1928: Sir Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin, although it does not become available in a therapeutically usable form until 1940.

Regulation of advertising and drugs

1926: Concern over health hazards of lead arsenate leads to first pesticide regulation.

1927: Stuart Chase and Frederick Schlink publish Your Money's Worth, exposing fraudulent sales practices and urging consumers to become better informed about the products they buy.

1929: A Consumers' Club is founded in New York City and later incorporated in 1929 as Consumers' Research Incorporated; this group begins to publish a Consumers' Research Bulletin containing reports on commonly used products.  The volume of complaints about deceptive advertising becomes so heavy that the Federal Trade Commission sets up a separate Board of Investigation to oversee their disposition.


Medical discovery and disease trends

1932: Researchers discover riboflavin, or vitamin B3.

1933: Basil O'Connor, friend and advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, begins to hold annual "President's Birthday Balls" to raise money for research and treatment of polio.

1935: Gerhard Domagk discovers Protonsil, the first sulfa drug, and uses it to treat infections caused by streptococcus.

1937: National Cancer Institute is founded.

1938: National Institute for Infantile Paralysis is founded and begins 'March of Dimes' campaigns to raise money for research and treatment of polio.

Regulation of advertising and drugs

1931: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in FTC vs. Raladam Co., a case involving the weight-reducing remedy Marmola, that the Federal Trade Commission has jurisdiction over advertising only when it directly harms business competitors, not simply because it injures consumers.

1933: Arthur Kallet and Frederick Schlink publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics, warning consumers against unsafe products in the marketplace; book becomes a Depression-Era bestseller.

1935: Group of consumer advocates split off from Consumers' Research Inc. to found a rival organization, Consumers' Union, which begins to publish its own magazine, Consumers' Union Reports (now known as Consumer Reports).

1936: Ruth de Forrest Lamb publishes American Chamber of Horrors: The Truth About Food and Drugs, documenting dangers consumers face because food, drug, and cosmetic industries are under-regulated.

1937: Food and Drug Administration's Division of Pharmacology begins first animal testing to determine risks from lead arsenate.  Elixor of sulfanilamide erroneously mixed with a poison solvent kills 107 people, many of them children, leading to increased demand for stronger drug safety laws. 

1938: Responding to a growing consumer movement, Congress passes two major pieces of legislation: the Wheeler-Lea Act, which allows the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute against companies whose advertising deceives and harms consumers; and the Copeland Bill, which expands the Food and Drug Administration's power to regulate drug and food safety, and extends its oversight to include cosmetics.


Medical discoveries and disease trends

1940: Howard Florey and Ernst Chain develop method to produce usable forms of peneiillin; a year later, first clinical trials of the drug show it has remarkable ability to cure life threatening infections. 

1944: Selman Waksman discovers streptomycin, antibiotic effective against TB.

1947: Parke-Davis announced discovery of antibiotic Chloromycetin.


Medical discoveries and disease trends

1950: Pfizer announces discovery of antibiotic Terramycin.

1951: American and British researchers publish papers presenting evidence that smoking causes lung cancer.  Major study documents flouride's role in preventing dental cavities.

1952: Major polio epidemic sweeps United States.  New drug Isoniazid developed which proves useful to treating TB.  Richard Doll and Bradford Hill publish epidemiological study linking smoking to lung cancer.  Surgeons perform first successful open heart surgery using heart-lung machine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

1953: Dr. Jonas Salk successfully tests a polio vaccine.  

1957: Extensive study commissioned by American Cancer Society shows heavy smoking shortens life span.

Regulation of advertising and drugs

1957: Vance Packard publishes The Hidden Persuaders, criticizing advertising industry for psychological manupulation of consumers.

1958: John Kenneth Golbraith publishes The Affluent Society, arguing that advertising encourages unhealthy materialism in the United States.  U.S. Congress passes a Food Additives Amendment requiring manufacturers to prove safety of new food additives; bill includes the Delaney Clause that bans approval of any food additive to shown to cause cancer in humans or animals.


Medical discoveries and disease trends

1961: U.S. Public Health Service begins large scale use of Sabin vaccine

1965: U.S. Congress passes legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid.

1967: Surgeon Rene Favaloro performs first coronary bypass operation using patient's vein in Cleveland, OH.

Regulation of advertising and drugs

1962: Sleeping pill thalidomide taken by pregnant women in Western Europe is shown to have caused birth defects in their babies; FDA official kept drug from being marketed in U.S.

1964: Consume activist Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, documenting dangers of pesticide use to humans and wildlife.  JFK gives first speech by a President on the subject of consumer protection in which he enunciates a Consumer Bill of Rights.  The Kefauver-Harris Act gives the FDA greater control of prescription drugs, new drugs, and experimental drugs, as well as overisight of prescription drug advertising.  President Lyndon Johnson appoints Esther Peterson as first Presidential Advisor on Consumer Issues.

1965: U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Smoking argues that smoking is a major health risk for cancer, cancer, and emphysema.  Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed, charging that American automobile industry is neglecting consumer safety issues.

1966: U.S. Congress passes law requiring label on cigarette packages: "Warning: Cigarette Smoking may be Hazardous to your Health."  U.S. Congress passes Fair Packaging and Label Act, which strengthens requirements for accurate packaging information.


Regulation of advertising and drugs

1970: FDA requires first patient package insert to be included with oral contraceptives.

1971: Congress bans cigarette advertising on television and radio (to take effect in 1971) and requires stronger health warning on cigarettes.  Consume activist Ralph Nader founds Public Citizen, Inc.

1972: Safety Commission to coordinate and strengthen federal oversight of consumer safety issues.  Food and Drug Administration begins comprehensive review of efficacy of all over-the-counter drugs in order to assure the public.  Congress passes Insect and Rodenticide Act.  FDA begins requiring new food labeling that specifies full listing of all ingredients in each product.

1974:  Congress passes legislation giving FTC new powers to set industry-wide rules of conduct and to seek civil penalties against "knowing violators."

1975: FTC begins antitrust suit against American Medical Association, charging that its ban on physician advertising discourages competition and unfairly disadvantages consumers; after years of legal battling, the FTC wins the suit and as of 1982, AMA ban on physician advertising is lifted.


Regulation of advertising and drugs

1980: FDA begins to expand provision of patient package inserts for prescription drugs.  Congress passes Infant Formula Act, which requires minimum amounts of essential nutrients in commercially prepared baby foods.  

1982: American Medical Association lifts ban on physician advertising after loosing court battle with FTC.


Regulation of advertising and drugs

1990: Congress passes Nutrition Labeling and Education Act requiring standardized listings of ingredients and serving sizes on food products.

1997: FDA loosens restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

Links of Interest