Thursday, 11 September 2014

Former Pharma: Tremol and the National Infirmary for Bad Legs

What’s the difference between a legitimate medicine and a quack cure? Until medicine regulations were introduced in the 1960s, it was virtually impossible to tell – especially when the product was being marketed by medics at a national hospital. Supposedly.
Step forward Tremol – a cure for “varicose ulcers, varicose eczema, sore legs, swollen legs, painful joints”, widely advertised in story magazines of the 1910s and 1920s. Its purveyors? The National Infirmary for Bad Legs in Manchester. Yes really. They apparently worked from Ward CA (occasionally ER) of the institution on Great Clowes Street in Broughton. “Every form of bad leg succumbs to this new treatment” said the advertisement. “You are cured to stay cured for all time.”
The form the “infirmary” actually took is uncertain – there are no records of any type of hospital on Great Clowes Street. But we do know that the British Medical Association investigated it as early as 1912, and found evidence of pressurised selling. It also found no sign of supervision by a “fully qualified medical man” as the infirmary claimed. “If there is a registered medical man connected with the place, he is certainly acting in a way that makes him liable to be arraigned before the General Medical Council.”
The BMA’s analysis of the “Tremol blood mixture” (one teaspoon to be taken morning and evening) revealed the following ingredients: calcium chloride, ferric chloride, hydrochloric acid, rhubarb infusion, peppermint, water. Nasty. Yet Tremol clearly had a market and continued to be sold until at least 1928. Bad legs make you desperate, you see.