UNMASKED: THE GREAT REDUCING PILL GYP! (Feb, 1958)
UNMASKED: THE GREAT REDUCING PILL GYP!
Doctors warn that “the most widely promoted medical fraud of today” is a “menace to public health”
BY JAMES SHAWCROSS
STEVE ALLEN, video’s versatile funnyman, can be mighty witty on the screen and he can also be a dud at times. But the worst egg he ever laid wasn’t on TV. He did it, with an assist from his beauteous missus, in a so-called “paid endorsement,” lending his famous name to plug an infamous product, a spurious “reducing candy.”
According to a high-priced, nationwide ad that starred the famous couple, “Mr. and Mrs. Steve Allen lose weight together with AYDS!… Jayne: ‘And lose weight automatically!’ . . . Steve: ‘Triple check!'”
AYDS is one of those’ fast-selling reducing pills which hold out the promise of a panacea for fat people. They are represented as a wonder drug which makes you reduce without going on a diet!
Steve and Jayne seem to be just the right size around the crucial midriff — in fact, Steve himself is a bit on the lean side. So the chances are their motive in plugging AYDS must have been slightly ulterior. They probably did it for the cash such endorsements brings to celebrities.
There is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to smoke Luckies to plug them, but in the case of those reducing pills, the harmless “fraud” has a serious side.
So here are a few questions for Steverino, the boy who made a name for himself by kidding silly commercials:
• Did you know when you endorsed AYDS that the product you plugged is pseudo-medical junk?
• Did you know that, according to various trade and drug sleuths of Uncle Sam, it doesn’t do what it promises — it doesn’t help you to lose weight, automatically or otherwise?
• Did you know that by endorsing such a spurious piece of patent medicine you loaned your good name to what a Congressional committee recently described as “the most wildly promoted medical fraud of today?”
DANGEROUS TO BE FAT Let’s give Steve the benefit of the doubt. But the same cannot be done for the product lie plugs. Steverino’s tasty quack-candy is but one of a large selection of “reducing pills” with which unscrupulous medical racketeers are now flooding the market. They are promoting these pills with misleading ads and endorsements, although they know very well that their pills will not stay those calories from adding extra pounds.
“AYDS” is one of the most publicized and least effective among these phony “wonder drugs.” Others go by all sorts of suggestive, quasi-medical names like ND-17 . . . R-D-X (put out by people who are so concerned about your tired blood) . . . Regimen . . . EHP . . . Hungrex . . . No-Di-Et . . . and EEDR. All of them are much-touted tools in a new craze that’s sweeping the country — the “dietless reducing scheme.”
Overweight is undoubtedly one of the nation’s prime problems. Too much poundage, resulting from an unbalanced diet, makes us sluggish and sick. Of the people who are 10 per cent or more overweight, 72 per cent have anemia, 37 per cent have nervous disorders, 18 per cent have diabetes, 22 per cent have heart trouble, and 7 per cent have gall bladder trouble. The medical profession now says that overweight people give up ten years of their lives just by being fat.
The slim silhouette in woman’s fashions, together with medical emphasis on the dangers of excessive weight, has created a vast market for these phony concoctions.
A slick clique of patent medicine makers saw in the medical warning a bonanza for themselves. They exploited the anxiety of overweight people and the dislike most of us have for dieting, and came out with these reducing pills which “guarantee” to make you lose weight — without the pain of dieting!
But people don’t reduce by swallowing those pills. On the contrary, a few wax quite fat — the shrewd manufacturers of the pills.
During a recent Congressional investigation into the racket, a Newark nutritionist named Dr. S. William Kalb, gave the solons a widely advertised pill to illustrate his point. Said Dr. Kalb, while the Congressmen munched: “Reducing pills so widely advertised today are a total waste of time and money.”
SWALLOWING SLOW POISON The doctor was asked what the tasty pill he handed out was made of. He said the brand was skimmed milk with a dash of lemon juice. He estimated its manufacturers made “about a 400,-000 per cent profit” on them.
Even if these particular pills happened to be harmless, others now flooding the market are not, he warned. “In some cases,” he said, “these pills represent a real menace to public health.”
Such a potentially harmful reducing pill goes by the brand name “EEDR.” It is manufactured by an obscure pharmaceutical firm, Otis Laboratories, operating out of Larchmont, New York.
This is the blurb with which “EEDR” is peddled: “Brand new — Now available for the first time! Flushes fat right out of your body! Reduce up to 6 pounds the first 2 days, up to 11 pounds the first week — or pay nothing! Just like a doctor’s prescription . . , You lose (up to) 50 pounds or more in a reasonable length of time without a single hungry moment . . . Send for EEDR now!”
You mail in three bucks for a 20-day supply and get 60 red pills and 18 brown pills by return mail. You are supposed to swallow three of each a day — a lot of “ammonium chloride” and “compounded ethylenediamine digydrochloride.”
What the blurb fails to say is the fact that these chemicals can do a lot of harm to the gullible pill swallower. The continued use of ephedrine, for instance, may cause restlessness and sleeplessness. Individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and thyroid disease run a real risk by swallowing those pills — aside from the fact that they won’t be losing the poundage the Otis people promise.
These cunning makers of the reducing pills gloss over the crux of the problem which is that no amount of pill swallowing will ever make a fat person lose weight. Dr. Kalb said he had tried many of the drugs on fat people but had never found one that was satisfactory as a weight reducer. He advised overweight people to face up to the fact that the only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories than they burn up. He earnestly counseled against using any of the currently popular “medications” such as wafers, gum, candy (like AYDS), or even mechanical gadgets to lose weight.
While the vast majority of the good doctors is up in arms against the reducing pills, a small group of medics have placed themselves behind them and lend them dignity by enthusiastically endorsing them.
“TESTS” NEVER EXISTED This is a far more serious matter than the presumably innocent effort of Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows to make you chew AYDS.
The “EEDR” which contains that controversial ephedrine, is sponsored by one Dr. Frederic Damrau, a bona fide M.D. with a chichi Park Avenue address. He is the scientific brain behind the pill that was “invented” by another medic, one Dr. Edgar A. Ferguson of New York.
Probably encouraged by Dr. Damrau’s expertise, the Otis people advertise their red and brown pills with all the plugs pulled out. They say, in so many words, “it cannot harm your heart, lungs, liver or other vital organs.”
But on what is such a sweeping statement based?
On Dr. Ferguson’s say-so and on Dr. Damrau’s confirmation of a nebulous claim. The doctor even insisted that certain “clinical investigations” have borne out the claim — but a closer look-see on the part of this reporter revealed the startling fact that no such clinical investigations were ever actually made. When Dr. Ferguson was asked what clinical proof he had that EEDR was both effective and harmless, he answered congenially: “It rests only upon our own work. All our proof is our statement.” EEDR was further endorsed by a certain Dr. Theodore M. Feinblatt; but on cross-examination old Dr. Feinblatt conceded that he never really participated in any pertinent experiments, not at least in any he could recall.
And what is the professional record of Dr. Damrau who put himself squarely behind the controversial EEDR?
DAMRAU IS HOCUS-POCUS MEDIC He is a medical doctor, to be sure, but his practice of medicine has some strange undertones. He regularly advertises himself in “Drug Trade News” as a “medical writer” and a “medical consultant.” It is part of his business to write articles on various patent medicines and see that they get placed in reputable journals. He also sells medicine promoters the right to distribute certain drugs in return for royalty fees.
His strange “medical practice” has occasionally landed him in hot water with the authorities. A few of the firms who retained him as a consultant have run afoul of the law. Moreover, the American Medical Association at times in the past has directed pointed cricticism at Dr. Damrau.
Back in the 1930s, for instance, the Journal of the AMA devoted nearly two and a half pages to an editorial castigating an article this same Dr. Damrau had written for “Good Housekeeping.” It was entitled, ‘Undulant Fever: What It Is and How It Concerns You.”
The AMA said the article contained “pernicious misinformation.” According to insiders, Dr. Damrau wrote the article, not in the interest of people suffering from undulant fever, but in the interest of people selling raw milk.
Damrau was also medical consultant to a firm called Zo-Ak Company. This was the firm enjoined by the Federal Trade Commission to stop advertising its product as a “competent remedy or treatment for sexual debility.”
More recently, Damrau plugged a mineral-bath product called “Lymphex” which he described as a panacea for arthritic patients. He claimed he had actually tested it and found that it brought relief to 96 per cent of the cases tested.
But in 1954, the product Dr. Damrau has praised and endorsed with all the implied authority of the hard-won M.D. behind his name was found to be wanting, to say the least, by a Federal court. The company which manufactured “Lymphex” was fined $500 because its label falsely indicated that the drug was was an effective treatment for arthritis, rheumatic fever and various other ailments. This was the very drug Damrau found so miraculously effective by the special hocus-pocus of his “tests!”
What Damrau and his colleagues used to do for other controversial drugs, they are now doing for the reducing pills! Medics like Damrau — and, for that matter, Feinblat and Ferguson — are important in the case because their authoritative endorsement of the product lends respectability to the reducing pills, promoting their public acceptance even in the face of warnings by the Federal authorities and the nutritional experts of the AMA.
Damrau’s stand behind EDDR made it a best seller in its class. The endorse ment of other such pills by other doctors made the worthless reducing remedies do a landoffice business over drugstore counters.
Though such activities on the part of certain medics may not be compatible with the strict ethical standards of the American Medical Association, they could be glossed over as “business-before-ethics” if they did not actually condone a fraud.
But fortified by the endorsements of a handful of rather tolerant medics (whose tolerance is determined by the size of the fees they are getting as “medical consultants” to pharmaceutical firms like Otis of Larchmont), the manufacturers of reducing pills con- tinue to shout their brazen claims.
A product called “Regimen Tablets” thus claims: “No-diet reducing with new wonder drug for fat people . . . No diet, no special eating,” promising up to 10 pounds off the first week.
Another labeled “E.H.P. Reducer” blares: “First no-diet wonder drug for reducing! . . . astonishing weight losses . . . without giving up a single one of the foods you like!”
The people who make “ND-17” advertise: “Lose as many pounds as you like without diets of any kind, without exercise.”
Even the quasi-ethical Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the firm which makes the famous Serutan, Geratol and Somex, goes to excess with the claim: “Here’s how you can lose weight and eat plenty . . . Now with the R-D-X plan you fill your stomach . . . Suffer no hunger tantrums.”
DIET IS ONLY ANSWER To all these claims, Dr. Kalb and the vast majority of honest medical nutritionists say — bunk!
What these pills will actually do is one of two things. They will either “depress” the appetite or “appease” it with such tasty decoys as candy, wafers, chewing gum, on which you nibble.
But they won’t help you reduce — unless you eat less!
Most brazen among the ads is that of a product called Larson’s S.M.D. (the mysterious letters actually standing for “Swedish Milk Diet”). Its ads never mention the horrible word, “diet!” On the contrary, they say: “No calorie counting, no special meals, nothing too difficult for anyone in normal health to follow Take Larsons S.M.D only three days weekly.’ But once you fall for the bait and buy a package, literature you find in side it will have a sobering effect on you. What you actually bought was not a reducing remedy, but a reducing diet.
It goes to extremes, in tact! According to the instructions; three times a week you dring four glasses of milk with the S.M.D. in it — but will that reduce you by itself?
Don’t be a sucker!
Of course it won’t! What will do the trick is in the fine type of the instructions which says: “On these three days each week you skip your meals altogether!”