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DRUG LEGISLATION IN THE UNITED STATES.

FEDERAL LAWS.

CONDITIONS EXISTING PRIOR TO LEGISLATION IN 1848.

Previous to the enactment of the Federal law in 1848 governing the importation of adulterated and spurious drugs, medicines, and chemicals, various forces were at work endeavoring not only to minimize this dangerous practice, but also to expose fraudulent dealings in medicinal agents of home production.

One of the chief objects of establishing the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, 1821, was " To direct attention to the quality of drugs brought into the market.” The New York College of Pharmacy had for a series of years called attention to the fact that large quantities of sophisticated and misnamed chemical and pharmaceutical preparations were daily imported."

The American Medical Association also exerted a powerful influence in bringing about legislation which would tend to prevent the importation of fraudulent medicinal agents. In order to clearly set forth the conditions existing previous to the enactment of the Federal law, House Report No. 664 of the Thirtieth Congress is freely quoted.

[House Report No. 664, Thirtieth Congress, first session, to accompany bill H. R. 524.)

IMPORTED ADULTERATED DRUGS, MEDICINES, ETC.

June 2, 1848, Doctor Edwards, from the select committee to whom the subject was referred, made the following report:

The select committee to whom was referred the subject of imported adulterated drugs, medicines, and chemical preparations report:

That in accordance with the requisition of your honorable body your committee directed their attention to the subject referred to them. They have received through the House numerous petitions and memorials from physicians, druggists, and other citizens of the various cities and States, which set forth, as facts, the importation and sale of vast amounts of adulterated, misnamed, and vitiated medical agents used in general practice-medicines familiar to and used by all, and which hold a close relation to the well-being and health of the entire community.

Communications of such importance, emanating from sources so respectable, could not but receive our careful consideration. As a specimen, we subjoin the petition and memorial of the American Medical Association, which assembled in Baltimore during the present month. A body of more highly gifted or honorable men has never assembled for any purpose. Deeply impressed with the importance of the subject, they ask at the hands of Congress legislative action as the only effective means of relief. The petition is as follows:

• The memorial of the American Medical Association, consisting of delegates from the several States in the Union, at their annual meeting in Baltimore, assembled May, 1848, respectfully represents: That it has become notorious among druggists, apothecaries, and physicians that of late important drugs and medicines are specially adulterated in foreign countries for sale in this, and pass daily through the custom-house to be disseminated by ignorant and unprincipled dealers, to the great detriment of our citizens.

" That, believing Congress possess the power to enact laws to prevent the evils complained of, by subjecting all drugs and medicines to the inspection of persons duly qualified, whose duty it shall be to ascertain their real value, character, and strength, and to keep such records as will guard the honest dealer against imposition, your memorialists therefore ask your honorable body that a law be enacted embracing the appointment of a proper inspector at each chief port of entry, whose duty it shall be to examine all imported drugs and medicines and to keep a record of such inspections, including the names of the parties, which shall be open for consultation to druggists and apothecaries and others concerned, or to adopt such other measures as in your wisdom you may deem best adapted to prevent the evils complained of. And your petitioners will ever pray. Signed : Alexander H. Stephens, of New York, president; Alfred Stille, of Pennsylvania, and H. J. Bowditch, of Boston, secretaries."

The State of Mississippi in March last, through the Hon. Jacob Thompson, presented the following resolutions :

Whereas it has been represented to this legislature that of late important drugs and medicines are specially adulterated in foreign countries for sale in the United States and pass daily through the custom-houses, to be disseminated by ignorant or unprincipled dealers, to the great detriment of the people : Therefore be it

Resolved, That our Senators in Congress be instructed and our representatives be requested to introduce and advocate the passage of a law for the appointment of a qualified inspector at each of the custom-houses of the United States, whose duty it shall be to ascertain the real character of all drugs and chemicals imported and destined for medical use, and to impose suitable penalties for the importation of any such drugs and chemicals in an adulterated state.

" Be it further enacted, That the governor be, and he is hereby, required to transm a copy these resolutions each of our Senators and Representatives in Congress.

JOHN J. McRAE, "Speaker of the House of Representatives.

SEABURY LIPSCOMB,

President of the Senate. “Approved February 19, 1848.

“J. W. MATTHEWS." The College of Pharmacy of New York have for a number of years called public attention to this subject. In a circular before us they state

That large quantities of sophisticated and misnamed chemical and pharmaceutical preparations are daily imported, not only to the injury of the customhouse revenue and of the honest importer, but of dangerous effect upon the health and lives of all who require the aid of medicines, such as they purport to be, throughout the country.

“That, with some unprincipled foreign manufacturers, aided and abetted by dealers of a kindred stamp in this country, it is a regular systematic business to make different qualities of various medical preparations for the American market, the better kinds for the Atlantic cities, and others, very much inferior, for the West,' meaning thereby our Western States. The latter are generally altogether unlike what they purport to be, are quoted at about half price, and are unfit for any use whatever," etc.

The memorial of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy sets forth “ that one of the chief objects of the establishment of their institution was “to direct attention to the quality of drugs brought into the market,' with a view to correct the evils arising from the introduction and sale of spurious and sophisticated articles; that they have, from time to time, by a proper education of young men in their school of pharmacy, by exposing frauds of various kinds when discovered and by the publication of a journal, which assumes a high tone in its exposition of these abuses, done much to correct the evils spoken of; that it has now become notorious amongst druggists that of late important drugs and medicines are specially adulterated in foreign countries for sale in this, and pass daily through the custom-house, to be disseminated by ignorant or unprincipled dealers, to the great detriment of our citizens,” etc.

Composed, as is your committee, of a majority of men who have made the study and practice of medicine the chief purpose of their lives, they feel no hesitation in admitting that the facts they are about to submit were but partially known to them individually until a very recent period. They have had before them specimens of the adulterations of which they speak, and ask a generous confidence in their statements.

In consequence of the stringent laws now in force in most parts of Europe regulating the trade in drugs and the dispensing of medicine, none but genuine articles and those of acknowledged strength and purity are allowed to be used or purchased. All inferior and deteriorated drugs in a crude state, as well as adulterated medicinal and chemical preparations, must therefore, as a matter of necessity, find a market elsewhere; and that market, unfortunately for the people of this country, has long been and still is found in these United States.

For a long series of years this base traffic has been constantly increasing until it has become frightfully enormous. It would be presumed from the immense quantities and the great variety of inferior drugs that pass our custom-houses, and particularly the custom-house at New York, in the course of a single year that this country had become the grand mart and receptacle of all the refuse merchandise of that description, not only from the European warehouses, but from the whole eastern world.

On reference had, not long since, to the custom-house books in New York, it was found that 7,000 pounds of rhubarb root had been passed within ninety days, not one pound of which was fit, or even safe, for medicinal purposes. Much of it had become greatly deteriorated by age, was worm eaten, and decayed, while other portions, notwithstanding they showed a somewhat fair appearance externally—the color, etc., having been brightened by artificial means for the purpose of deception-gave internal unmistakable evidence of the virtue of the root having been extracted by previous decoction for the purpose of making what is sold as the “extract of rhubarb,” and thereby rendering it of no further value for medicinal use. This article was invoiced at from 24d. sterling (5 cents) to 7d. (14 cents) per pound. The price of good rhubarb at the place of production has been, for several years past, about as follows: The East India, from 35 to 45 cents per pound, according to circumstances; the Turkey or Russian, from $1.25 to $2.50 per pound, exhibiting a very wide difference in price, as will be perceived, between the good and refuse article.

Another of our more important articles of medicine, particularly in the newly settled portions of our country, comes to us in large quantities entirely unfit for medicinal purposes, but, like the worthless rhubarb root, is eagerly bought up at auction sales by unprincipled drug dealers and sent to the drug mills, where it is ground and powdered, the color, smell, and natural taste imitated, and afterwards sold to country dealers and others as a good article. The result of this is that it is finally dispensed to the sick at the sacrifice, doubtless, of many valuable lives every year. We mean the Peruvian bark.

Several varieties of this bark are used in medicines, viz, the “yellow," the “pale,” the “ red,” etc. ; but neither variety can scarcely ever be obtained at the place of production, of good quality and in good condition, at a less rate than from 30 to 40 cents per pound; and the quality generally used for the manufacture of sulphate of quinine (or the salts of Peruvian bark) has not for years been obtained from those parts of South America where it is produced at a less price than from $60 to $80 per quintal of 100 pounds. The worthless article, particularly referred to above, comes principally from Europe, and seems to be made up of the different varieties already named, as well as to be in a greatly deteriorated condition from age, or from having had its medicinal virtues extracted for the purpose of making the extract of Peruvian bark, a valuable medicine.

From appearances it consists mainly of refuse material collected together in foreign warehouses for exportation. It is invoiced at from 2 to 7 cents per pound. Thousands of pounds of this trash have passed through the New York custom-house at the above price during the past year, and may justly be considered very dear even at those rates.

Columbo and gentian roots and many more of the important crude drugs come to us in a similar worthless condition.

Opium, an article of priceless worth in the treatment of disease, is now sent to this country in a greatly and dangerously adulterated state, and as a proof that the fraud carried on in the preparation of this valuable drug is now made not only a regular but an extensive business, we are assured, on most reliable authority, that it is shipped directly from Smyrna, the wost important place

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