That era is said to have ended early in the last century, following passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.
With the collapse of the car companies, the failures in real estate, and the consolidation of banking, even our big-time cable outlets now prominently feature ads for patent medicines.
While the first patent medicine craze was fought back, in part, through muckraking journalists, the fight in this second war is being driven by science itself, which has tried out the key ingredients -- vitamins -- and found them wanting.
Regulation was the ultimate solution to the first patent medicine craze, but this second craze has risen in regulation's shadow.
The craze is said to be driven by suspicion of regulators. In fact it's driven by people priced out of the regular medicine market.
The cure for today's patent medicine craze is universal health care. Let everyone back into the market and the pseudo market dries up.
That's the goal of health care reform. Let the strength of the patent medicine market be the yardstick by which we measure it.