Healthy Living

20 Biggest Health Scandals in Recent History

8. The mass poisoning from Elixir Sulfanilamide led to the FDA enforcing laws on drug safety

In 1937, a mass poisoning occurred that is now referred to as the Elixir Tragedy. 105 patients, including 71 adults and 34 children, were treated with an untested medication - Elixir Sulfanilamide. It was intended as a countermeasure to a variety of illnesses, but the research that went into the potential harm of the drug was entirely insufficient.

While it was a horrible tragedy, this led Congress to push for legislation that would enable the Food and Drug Administration to better enforce drug safety to prevent such an occurrence in the future. Previously, they were not responsible for drug approval. Paul Wax is a medical toxicologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and he explains, "the initial 1905 legislation was relatively weak. There had to be some truth to what [drug companies] were selling ... but in terms of safety, let alone efficacy, that wasn't part of the equation."

Photo source: FDA