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December 13, 2021

History's Bad Medicine

If the illness didn’t kill you the treatment just might.

Thank innovation that medicine has come as far as it has. History is full of treatments, devices and prescriptions that range from the bizarre to the barbaric. Most on this list of bygone therapies will have you saying nope to heck nope. Read on. But be prepared to cringe. 

Infant gum lancing. In a classic case of mistaken cause and effect, a high infant mortality was thought to be caused by teething. The cure? Lancing babies’ gums. Ouch. No one knows how many infections this induced–or worse–until thankfully it was abandoned in the early 1900s.

Shocking cure for impotence. Have problems down there? Just strap on an “electropathic belt.” How’s that for a real kick in the you know what? Guys, you really don’t want to see the pics for this one. 

“Pelvic massage”–it’s exactly the euphemism you think it is. Once upon a time, a whole bevy of maladies were diagnosed as hysteria in women. They included anxiety, irritability, insomnia, faintness, bloated stomachs–and sexual desire. You’ve guessed where this is going. The cure? A pelvic massager, otherwise known as a vibrator. It might not have cured a lot of ailments, but you know…

Prescription afflictions. 

Here’s a short list for the what-the-heck-were-they-thinking file. These “medications” definitely did more harm than good. 

  • Tobacco smoke enemas. No, we’re not blowin’ smoke up your you know where. They were actually used to treat headaches, abdominal cramps and even typhoid and cholera from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s.
  • Heroin cough syrup. It didn’t cure your symptoms, but it might’ve made you forget about ‘em. It was marketed as a non-addictive substitute for morphine and sold OTC for more than a decade.
  • Cocaine for everything? There’s a logic to this one that lasts about as long as you might expect. Toothaches, check. Depression, for a little while. Sinusitis, at first. Lethargy, heck yeah–and then some. It was also used to treat alcoholism and impotence. It took nearly 25 years for this “cure” to go from the drugstore on every corner to the man on the corner and created nearly 200,000 addicts along the way. 

100 million people skipping medications.

Sounds bizarre–even barbaric–and yet during this modern age, in this country of vast wealth and resources, many millions of people–ourselves, our friends, family and colleagues–skip meds due to lack of access and high costs. 

If this little trip down history lane is instructive at all, it teaches us that innovation in medicine doesn’t rest. And neither do we. We believe the time for change is overdue. We believe it so much, we’re working around the clock to make it happen. 

See how we’re creating the pharmacy of the future right now with a technology platform purpose-built to make prescription drugs easier to fill and more affordable to buy for everyone.


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