BACKSTAGE with QUACK CURES

With arthritics ready to try anything, hucksters make a killing

SHIRLEY MAIR May 7 1960
BACKSTAGE with QUACK CURES

With arthritics ready to try anything, hucksters make a killing

SHIRLEY MAIR May 7 1960

With arthritics ready to try anything, hucksters make a killing

BACKSTAGE with QUACK CURES

QUACK REMEDIES for arthritis got some ugly, widespread publicity late last year, when the U. S. Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation ran a survey of the disease's victims. It found that out of 11 million arthritics, five million spend $250 million a year on expensive pain-easers and phony “cures.”

Canada has 165,000 arthritics. Are they being swindled proportionately? Probably not. says the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society, though it has no comparable figures. Canadians more often seem to favor home remedies that are as useless but far less costly. Nevertheless, there’s strong evidence that at least a sizeable minority are being taken in by quacks.

The society knows more about this fondness for home remedies because it often hears from arthritics who swear they've improved since 1 ) rubbing the stiffened joints with such balms as cough syrup, banana skins or Fly-tox, 2) quaffing blackstrap molasses, salad oil or alfalfa tea. or 3) wearing insoles in their shoes, copper bracelets on their wrists or potatoes in their pockets.

Canadian universities have 20 projects going to find a cure for arthritis, but so far the only recognized treatments (rest, exercise, aspirin, heat applications, cortisone-like drugs) get slow, unpredictable results. Many arthritics believe in other "cures” because rheumatoid arthritis, a common form, goes through periods when it subsides naturally; whatever treatment the victim is using at the time gets the credit.

This built-in gullibility helps quacks prosper. Some costly gimmicks already—or soon likely to be—found on both sides of the border:

* an upholstered massage chair (about $300). Its promoters claim it's greatly beneficial; doctors say it’s useless. ** “immune milk" — a mysterious concoction costing $1.60 a quart.

a more expensive and equally ineffective "medicine" made of gin. water and vegetable coloring.

* uranium pads, now a big fad. “If they were really as radio-active as the sellers claim, they’d be dangerous,” says the U. S. foundation’s medical director, Dr. R. W. Làmont - Havers. "Actually, they're less radio-active than a radium-dial wristwatch."

^ pain-killing pills no better than aspirin but costing $3 per 100.

^ a book called Arthritis and Common Sense, by Dan Dale Alexander. A former U. S. armymedical-corps private, he got a quick PhD from a diploma mill and sold 500,000 copies of his book in the U. S. before the Federal Trade Commission stopped him. It's still in some Canadian bookstores.

Though nobody knows how much money quacks take from Canadian arthritics, the society knows the disease costs its victims nine million man-days of work a year and $75 million in wages. Every extra dollar they lose to the quacks is a dollar more than they can.

SHIRLEY MAIR