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A Drug Company Primer

by George Griffenhagen, December, 2003


Farbenfabriken Bayer

German dyestuffs merchant Friedrich Bayer, and fellow countryman Johann Friedrich Weskott founded the firm Farbenfabriken Bayer in 1863, and the following year they commenced exporting the dyes they were manufacturing in Wuppertal, Germany. In time, the Bayer firm was faced with a dilemma. It needed to find an industrial use of the large quantities of byproducts that accumulated in the production of certain dyes. In 1887, they converted waste into what was found to be phenacetin. After developing a series of other coaltar analgesics, the firm introduced acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) into medicine in 1899.

The holdings of Bayer in America were seized during World War I and in 1918 were sold to Sterling Products who continued The Bayer Company to market Bayer Aspirin. After World War I, Farbenfabriken Bayer in Leverkusen, Germany, commenced to promote their products worldwide. In the 1930s, Bayer in Germany sent postcards to doctors around the world promoting Evipan (hexabarbital, a rapid acting barbiturate that was used as a surgical anesthetic; it was also marketed by Eli Lilly under the trade name of Seconal). The only such card seen is one mailed from to Buenos Aires, Argentina, franked with three German stamps, two Hindenberg definitives (Scott 415) and Franz Adolf Lucheritz commemorative (Scott 432), both issued in 1934.

Burroughs Wellcome & Co.

Burroughs Wellcome & Co. was founded by American pharmacists Silas Burroughs and Henry Wellcome in 1880. The firm merged with Glaxo in 1995 to form Glaxo Wellcome. When Burroughs died in 1895, Wellcome founded the Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories in 1901 in Khartoum, Sudan, where he discovered several prehistoric Ethiopian archeological sites. In 1913, Wellcome established the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum n London providing a home for the treasures he had collected in his world travels.

From September 1957, to July 1958, the firm sent a group retracing Livingston’s 1866-1871 Africa tour variously advertising Emperin Compound with Codeine Marezine (for motion sickness); and Perazil.

The first postcard was mailed from Windhoek, South West Africa, with the request: “Won’t you follow us as we visit each of these following places? We’ll send you a card from each stop.” The map on the reverse of the postcard shows that after stopping at Windhoek, the visits included: Cape Town, South Africa; Maseru, Basutoland; Lobatsi, Bechuanaland; Salisbury, Rhodesia; Dzaoudzi, Comores; Zanzibar; and Mombasa, Kenya.

Similar tours were conducted to the North Atlantic in 1958-1959 using postcards to promote Sudafed (a nasal decongestant); and to the Caribbean in 1959 using postcards to promote Marezine and Methedrine.

Laboratories Biomarine

Laboratories Biomarine of Dieppe (France) used postcards to advertise several of the firm’ s products such as Ionyl (sodium glycerophosphate); Marinol , (calcium phosphate and organic iodine from seaweed); and Plasmarine (calcium phosphate and manganese iodine). They were all mailed various size postcards between 1948 and 1955 with some as late as 1958-1964.

Nion Corporation

Nion Corporation in Hollywood, California, promoted their vitamins to physicians in 1957-1959 using postcards depicting photographs taken by the chairman of the board Don Bleitz.

Poulenc Limited

The Canadian branch of the French firm Rhone-Poulenc engaged in sending promotional postcards in 1955 to 1966 promoting such products as: Largactil (brand of the antipsychotic Clorpromazine); Rovamyycin, brand of the antibiotic Spiramycin); and Stemetil, brand of the antipsychotic Prochlorperazine, all of which are still on the market today.

E. R. Squibb & Sons

E. R. Squibb & Sons was established by Edward R. Squibb, M.D., in 1858, and subsequently merged with Bristol Myers to form Bristol Myers, Squibb. In 1962-1963, Squibb sent a series of postcards promoting Rautractl, a product composed of Rauwolfia Serpentina alkaloids used as a antihypertensive, during a European and Mediteranean Tour. Another tour of West Africa also in 1962 promoted Moditen , brand of Fluphenazine which was subsequently banned by the U.S. Olympics Committee for use by athletes.