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Shadowy side of patent medicines - The Galveston County Daily News: Health

December 2, 2016

Medical Discovery News Shadowy side of patent medicines

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 12:15 am

It’s hard to believe that people used to drink snake oil as a “universal remedy,” or rely on a patent medicine called Mugwumps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Yet, from colonial times to the 1900s, people would unquestionably turn to such “cures.” Patent medicines were sold directly to a patient from the manufacturer without a prescription through mail order, in shops and in traveling medicine shows. They were trademarked (which is not the same as today’s patenting) by the seller, yet untested and unregulated, and as such, rarely worked as advertised. Eventually, people even used the term “snake oil salesman” as a synonym for a fraudster.

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