Saturday, 15 December 2007

Euphemism in the drugs trade

...or, if you prefer it, the pharmaceutical industry.

My first job after leaving the army was with an American firm which had been started early in the twentieth century in the United States by a man pushing a medicine cart round the mid-West, giving away samples of his One-minute Cough Cure and similar wonders. By the time I joined it, it was a small but successful company exporting world-wide from a factory in South London.

They sold a range of proprietary pharmaceuticals (which used to be called patent medicines)—pills, powders and ointments, all useful remedies for minor ailments. Their really big seller was Pills for the Kidneys and Bladder, which contained a variety of herbal compounds of proven efficacy such as Pichi and Buchu. It was recommended for, among other things, the relief of a certain geriatric problem which we described coyly as “Getting Up Nights”. (I was young then: my problem in those days was Getting Up Mornings.)

These pills contained, among their perfectly respectable ingredients, methylene blue. This is a urinary antiseptic of genuine therapeutic value, but it also made a major contribution towards the pills’ popularity in six continents because it turned your pee bright blue. In most markets we made the point discreetly in our advertising: “...within a few hours of taking the pills you will see the good they are doing you”, but in the Far East and Africa we were more blunt: “The Blue Comes Through”.

The company still exists with the same name (which was the surname of the character played by George Sanders in All about Eve*) but is now part of a group whose skincare, feminine hygiene and oral care brands are marketed from Sweden. The group claims the usual sort of thing: “commitment to innovation, brand development and quality”, but these banalities are feeble successors to the (literally) colourful boasts of earlier days.


There are further revelations  HERE about my work for this company.

[*But the line about a bumpy night was not a reference to the nocturnal geriatric problem.]

5 comments:

eric said...

I see they also boast of being "a vibrant, agile, progressive business". Perhaps that's a testimonial to the curative powers of their products.

Grumio said...

As I am sure many of your readers do, I thrubble in my sleep and often wake feeling mocculent. These are not feminine hygiene problems (well the mocculence, perhaps) but is this the kind of thing with which this company can help?

Tony said...

Eric: Yes indeed, particularly the one which is supplied "with handy nozzle applicator".

Grumio: My dear fellow, you are clearly suffering from GLOIDS. You should start a course of their Anti-Gloid Powder at once. Act NOW, before your metatarsals become infected. (P.S. You rub it into your scalp, or it's grand with cornflakes too!)

Grumio said...

Thank you I shall try the powder. I only hope it doesn't exacerbate my swollen thrambix.

Grumio said...

What ho!

Unfortunately, I have tried the powder (can't say it enhanced my cornflake-consumption process greatly but never mind) and the results have not been as hoped. Whilst the mocculence has indeed subsided I now have a badly distended mantricle!

That's going to make chestnuts NO FUN over Christmas, wot!

Still the nurses say the contusions should subside by around Twelfth Night, so all is not lost.

Compliments of the season to you, Tony, from here at the Dorothy Tutin Ward at St. Yusuf's General Lying-in Hospital near Wokingham.

G