Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Advertising, megadoses of a miracle drug and the flu

The miracle drug was aspirin, the time was 1918, and the great Influenza Pandemic was raging. There was a hot new superdrug that was widely prescribed as a treatment, in doses that today would be considered insane. The drug was aspirin.
The Journal of the American Medical Association suggested a dose of 1,000 milligrams every three hours, the equivalent of almost 25 standard 325-milligram aspirin tablets in 24 hours. This is about twice the daily dosage generally considered safe today.
Today's New York Times reports on a paper that conjectures that at least some of the deaths associated with the epidemic may have been caused by this treatment.

Why was aspirin considered such a wonder drug? Bayer had lost its American patent protection in 1917. The market for aspirin had become very competitive and everyone was touting the merits of their own product. Trying to preserve market share for its brand, Bayer saturated the media with advertising touting its brand's purity. Little was known about the effects of large doses, and the theory seems to have been that if some is good, more is better.

No comments: