A Medical Mockery – 10 healthcare adverts that show just how far we’ve come!

You don’t have to look far to hear about brilliant and exciting strides being made in medical science. 3D printing is being used to create artificial limbs and organs; diabetics can now control their condition with the artificial pancreas; news has broken in 2015 about revolutionary new treatments which provide hope for patients with skin cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

These outstanding breakthroughs are in fact part of a much bigger picture – our attitudes towards health, and our understanding of even relatively minor ailments like indigestion, headaches and insomnia have come on in leaps and bounds because of ongoing Clinical Trials like the ones carried out at Covance in Leeds. Perhaps treatments for period pain or body odour don’t grab the most front-page headlines, but a look at how medicines have been advertised over the last hundred years speaks volumes about just how far we’ve come and these 10 healthcare adverts illustrate that beautifully…

La Mar Reducing Soap1 – La-Mar Reducing Soap

A soap bar which washes away fat!?

A dream come true, or too good to be true?

(The global obesity epidemic suggests the latter!).

In this brazen advert,  La-Mar Laboratories confidently assert that this product works ‘like magic’ to produce results which are ‘quick and amazing’, even stating that it can be used to target problem areas without affecting the bits you like.

If this were true, wouldn’t we all have a bar or two in the bathroom?

Pelikans2 – Pelikan’s Balsam

It’s the ingredients list which makes this seemingly-innocuous advert for cough linctus really, really worrying… that, and the fact that it’s advertised as ‘The Safest Cough Remedy’.

If alcohol, heroin and chloroform are the ingredients they were happy to tell you about, you have to wonder about the ‘other valuable ingredients’ which aren’t listed here!

Washroom3- Some Sex (mis)education

No, you didn’t.

You have to wonder whether the Physicians actually believed this, or they were just softening the blow for gentlemen diagnosed with a venereal disease? Still, is that any excuse for publishing ‘advice’ which doesn’t contain a single grain of truth?


midol4- Your Man, Your Midol

In the US of A, Midol is a girl’s go-to product for cramps and PMS – a bit like Feminax here in Blighty.

So what they’re really saying is ‘Use Midol, because your 1970’s-dreamboat-boyfriend doesn’t need to deal with you when you’re like this.’ Yep, they went there.

Who’s willing to bet that the ad-executive who dreamed this up was a man?


diet tip5- A diet tip we would LOVE to be true…

Can’t keep up with the latest fad diets? Tried everything and still not losing weight?

DON’T do what this 70s ad suggests and ‘nibble on a cookie about and hour before lunch’. I don’t think any modern day dietician would deny that it’s better to go to lunch hungry and eat a large, healthy meal than to fill up on empty calories an hour before.

And besides, it’s impossible to just eat ‘a cookie’!

Vermifuge6- Tonic Vermifuge

This art nouveau style poster is gorgeous… but something just doesn’t sit right…

How can one tonic possibly be an effective treatment for worms as well as ‘colds, asthma or any lung or throat disease’? The lack of any information about what’s in the tonic or how it actually works is highly suspect.

Like many vintage ads, this tonic claims to be a ‘cure’ –this word is almost never used in modern-day medicine, where each new drug is put through years of rigorous testing before it is deemed safe and effective enough to be put on the market. And if Vermifuge was, indeed, a proven ‘cure’, wouldn’t we all still use it to this day?

It all whiffs a bit of snake oil….

Yasmin7 – Yasmin – Hello Boys!

Wait…. WHAT!?

Obviously, the main benefit of the contraceptive pill is that it gives you the freedom to flirt with 4 men at once while modelling swimwear.

Again, I’m guessing that a man was at the helm of this advert concept.

norodin8 – Norodin, aka Methamphetamine

Now, I could point out that pitching an anti-depressant to  1950s housewives is sexist and stereotypical (which it is).

But even more worrying is the fact that ‘Norodin’ was a brand name given to the highly addictive (and now illicit) drug, Methamphetamine.

The small print in this advert explains that Norodin was effective at ‘dispelling the shadows of mild mental depression’, and that its advantages over other anti-depressants include ‘smaller dosages’ (because a high dose of meth would have unthinkable consequences!) and ‘relatively few side effects’. This last statement can be read either as evidence that the studies on Norodin were not comprehensive, or as a searing indictment of other available anti-depressants. Thank your lucky stars for modern SSRIs!

lysol9 – Save your Marriage with Lysol

FYI – Lysol is an American disinfectant product, quite similar to the Dettol liquid we use here in the UK.

Here, women are advised to use Lysol intimately to prevent unpleasant odours from destroying their marital bliss. It was also recommended as a method of birth control, as douching with Lysol was thought to prevent pregnancies from ‘taking’. The result?  By 1911, there were 193 reports of women suffering from Lysol poisoning and 5 recorded deaths from ‘uterine irrigation’

I promise I am not making this up!

santa10 – Holidays-a-Comin’, Holidays-a-Comin’…

Santa! How COULD you!?

Fortunately, studies of tobacco and the other harmful chemicals in cigarettes would later reveal the massive threat which smoking poses to public health, and Santa’s image would no longer be used to advertise an unhealthy product… (or would it!?)

Would you like to help us keep on improving our medical understanding? You can help to bring the treatments which actually work onto the market by participating in a Clinical Trial with Covance – and you’ll receive from £100 per day for your involvement. Click here or call 01133 945 200 to find out more

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