Old time cough syrup labeling and the side effects of medical disclaimers

One Night Cough Syrup

Check out the interesting active ingredients in this 100-year-old cough syrup label:

  • Alcohol (less than 1%),
  • Cannabis Indica F.E. (a.k.a. marijuana)
  • Chloroform
  • Morphia, Sulph. (a.k.a morphine)

Note how these ingredients are “skillfully combined with a number of other ingredients.”

What were the other ingredients? Coca leaves? Amyl nitrate? Do they call it “One Night” cough syrup because you never regain consciousness after polishing off a few tablespoons?

When people talk about the “good ol’ days,” is this what they are thinking about: When we could have good ol’ “cough syrup” without the FDA and DEA messing with a proven formula for relief?

Fast forward to today, and consider the “side effects” disclaimer so common in every commercial for prescription drugs.  You know what I’m talking about – the point in the drug commercial when they tell you everything that might go wrong from taking that medicine.  For me, the old saying “The remedy is worse than the disease” comes to mind every time.

Here’s an eight minute compilation video capturing many of the “side effects” voice-overs we’ve come to love.

What other type of product has this type of “disclaimer”? One that:

  1. Almost always puts the product in a negative light, at least for a few seconds.
  2. Seems unnecessary because a medical doctor is always the gatekeeper to prescription medication, and she should know this stuff , right?

So drug companies must deal with the negative impact of the disclaimers, and clear the additional hurdle of needing to see an expert to get approval to purchase the product.

In spite of the challenges drug companies face, I believe these disclaimers—while painful to experience as a consumer—provide valuable patient protections that weren’t in place back in the “good ‘ol days.”

Can you imagine drafting the disclaimer for One Night cough syrup? “Make cause nodding off, giddiness, and/or the munchies….”

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Brandon says:

    I only take Zoloft still because I’m addicted to it. I can’t go 2 days without it or I can hardly function because of head rushes, complete loss of thought, agitation. But I do notice that when I do take it, I feel better. It’s a give and take.

  • jos says:

    The cough syrup is for acute symptoms where the other “FDA” approved medicines are for chronic symptoms. As you can see from the previous comment, they are now hooked on this medicine and feel that they can’t live without it. I’d much rather take the cough syrup any day!

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