Food and drug regulation history — read about it, and then watch a cool video

In this essay, the Food and Drug Administration takes you into what the agency calls its "history vault" — where it stores evidence of drugs and devices that demanded — but didn't always get — proper regulation. (The vault contains more than 10,000 artifacts.) Some examples:

  • a sample of Elixir Sulfanilamide, a 1937 wonder drug that was formulated with a poisonous solvent that killed more than 100 people, including many children. The 1937 disaster spurred passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the basic law under which the FDA still operates.
  • a can of Bon Vivant vichyssoise soup (contents removed) that sparked an outbreak of botulism in the early 1970s and significant new food protections for consumers
  • the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, an ill-designed product that left thousands of women sterile during the 1970s, and encouraged Congress to craft legislation that specifically addressed the safety and efficacy of medical devices, and,
  • the Relaxicisor, a passive electric muscle stimulation “exercise” device first made famous during the 1950s, and again, more recently, thanks to the television show “Mad Men.”

The FDA says it wants to go beyond telling the public about the historical facts and "embrace[] the broader role of history: to inform, explain, and educate, so that future decisions are made with the best available knowledge and science." With that in mind, the agency is producing a series of history videos. To view the first one, click here or on the embedded video below.


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