Pain and Profits: The History of the Headache and Its Remedies in America

Pain and Profits: The History of the Headache and Its Remedies in America

Pain and Profits: The History of the Headache and Its Remedies in America

Pain and Profits: The History of the Headache and Its Remedies in America

Synopsis

Pain and Profits tells the story of how a common ailment--the headache--became the center of a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry in the United States. Despite the increasing authority of the medical profession in the twentieth century, treatment of this condition has remained largely in the hands of the public. Using the headache as a case study, and advertising as a significant source of information, Jan McTavish traces the beginnings of the modern over-the-counter industry. The American pharmaceutical industry developed from nineteenth-century suppliers of plant-derived drugs for both professional and home care. Two branches of the industry evolved over time--the ethical branch, which sold products only with prescriptions, and the nostrum branch, which was noted for its energetic marketing techniques. At the end of the century, they were joined by German companies that combined a strong commitment to science with aggressive salesmanship. Since German drugs were both highly effective in treating headaches and commonly available, suffers wanting quick relief could easily obtain them. The result was a new kind of "legitimate" pharmaceutical industry that targeted consumers directly. Historians of medicine as well as more general readers interested in the history of the headache will enjoy this fascinating account of the creation of the modern pharmaceutical industry.

Excerpt

On the sunny spring morning of 9 April 1865, a few miles west of the small Virginia town of Appomattox Court House, General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union forces, was in no mood to admire the weather. He had some urgent problems facing him, including the troubling uncertainty of Robert E. Lee's next move. Would Lee fight? the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia had escaped from Petersburg and were heading toward a defensible position at Lynchburg, where it was expected they would make a gallant, if ultimately futile, last stand. But the Union infantry under General Phil Sheridan had moved faster than even the North's leaders had anticipated and in fact had cut Lee off before he reached his destination. With the Confederates outnumbered and surrounded at Appomattox, the eventual outcome was never in question, but the rebels were scrappy, and the casualties on both sides would be high. Grant was determined that it would not be he who made the first move. He did not want to be responsible for a bloodbath this late in the war. He sent notes across the line to Lee, but Lee's responses were not encouraging. Grant fretted, his mood made all the worse by the fact that he had not slept well the night before. Indeed, Grant's other urgent problem that morning was a very painful sick headache. It had come on him the previous afternoon, stayed with him all night, and still tormented him hours later.

A tough, experienced soldier accustomed to the discomfort of campaigns and the rigors of military life, Grant recorded few illnesses of any kind during his years in the army. He had suffered occasional painful con-

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