Former pharma: more bad treatments for bad legs
Danger Man’s Doctor devotees will remember our belated expose of the National Infirmary for Bad Legs – an elaborate long-con hospital that lured thousands into shelling out for a quack leg treatment called Tremol in the early decades of the 20th century.
A British Medical Association investigation of Tremol in 1912 showed that it was a toxic combination of calcium choloride, ferric chloride, hydrochloric acid and rhubarb infusion.
Now, thanks to our reader Marlene Dawson, there are further revelations to be shared. Ms Dawson picked up a dog-eared edition of “Your Bad Leg and The Reason Why” – the Bible of Tremol use – at a jumble sale in Manchester, and kindly sent it to me. It includes a beautiful “Guarantee” from the National College of Health Limited and Infirmary for Bad Legs, complete with a picture of the infirmary. Ms Dawson points out the building still exists on Great Clowes Street, Salford, and is now home to media businesses and fashion photographers.
The guarantee superbly undertakes to refund all money paid for Tremol treatment if it fails to cure after “a reasonable length of time”, while also stating in the conditions (very small print): “We must be the judges of what is a reasonable time. We give no warranties.”
“Your Bad Leg” sets out the supposedly scientific basis by which Tremol purifies the blood, and therefore cures all types of ulcer, varicose veins and eczema. And its brazen denunciation of quack treatments illustrates superbly how patent remedies throughout history have clung to the edges of respectability, knowing that confidence is at the heart of every con.
“What the proprietors of these so-called cures claim is an impossibility, and the assertions they make are untrue,” it reads. “But this is the treatment foisted on you by unscrupulous persons, and the worst of it is, if you willingly submit yourself to such arrant quackery you become so sceptical when a genuine and guaranteed cure is brought before you, like Tremol, and pains taken with your case, and a lasting cure offered to you that you can hardly believe it is possible, and you doubt that such a thing as a real cure can exist.”
Well, it’s got me. I’m in.