Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remember Geritol?

One of our loyal readers sent me a question regarding a post about the game show scandal involving Charles Van Doren. He mentioned the Geritol logo that was prominently displayed on the set in the video. I told him I would look into it and see if it was still around. Turns out that it is, although I haven’t seen a bottle of it in years. I’ll have to check my Walmart pharmacy.

For any of you dear readers too young to remember Geritol, it was a US trademarked name for various supplements, past and present. Geritol was introduced as an alcohol-based, iron and B vitamin tonic by Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in August, 1950 and primarily marketed as such into the 1970s. Geritol was folded into Pharmaceutical's 1957 acquisition of J. B. Williams Co., founded in 1885. J. B. Williams Co. was later bought out by Nabisco in 1971. Since 1982, the Geritol product name has been owned by the multinational pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.

Geritol is currently a brand name for several vitamin complex plus iron or multimineral products in both liquid form and tablets, containing from 9.5 to 18 mg of iron per daily dose. The name is derived from the root "geri-", meaning old (as in "geriatrics") with the "i" for iron. The product has been promoted from almost the beginning of the mass media era as a cure for "iron-poor tired blood". In the early 20th century, many medical doctors and other health professionals felt that much of the tiredness often associated with old age was due to iron deficiency anemia.

The earlier Geritol liquid formulation was advertised as "twice the iron in a pound of calf's liver," and daily doses contained 50-100 mg of iron as ferric ammonium citrate. The Geritol tonic also contained ca 12% alcohol and some B vitamins. The subject of years of investigation starting in 1959 by the Federal trade Commission, the FTC in 1965 ordered the makers of Geritol to disclose that Geritol would relieve symptoms of tiredness only in persons who suffer from iron deficiency anemia, and that the vast majority of people who experience such symptoms do not have such a deficiency.

Subsequent trials and appeals from 1965 to 1973 concluded some of the FTC demands exceeded its authority. Even so, Geritol's claims were discredited in court findings as "conduct amounted to gross negligence and bordered on recklessness.” The manufacturer was penalized with fines totaling, $812,000, the largest FTC fine up to that date (1973). However, Geritol was already well known and continued to be the largest American selling iron and B vitamin supplement through 1979.

In the early days of television the marketing of Geritol was involved in the quiz show scandal, as the sponsor of Twenty-One. After that, for many years Geritol was largely marketed on television programs that appealed primarily to older viewers, such as The Lawrence Welk Show, Hee Haw, and Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour.

I'm thinking maybe the alcohol was the key ingredient. Even if you didn't need the iron input, that amount of alcohol might give you an excuse to feel tired. It's kind of like the old Vitameatavegamin product. And if you haven't seen that video, you really should take a look at it while you're here. I've added it to the sidebar for your enjoyment. It's as funny today as it was back in the fifties.

4 comments:

Warren Bobrow said...

My grandfather owned the company that made the snake oil named Geritol.. so I wrote a book all about "herbal healing" AKA: snake oil and alcohol named Apothecary Cocktails. Cheers.
Warren Bobrow
http://www.qbookshop.com/products/212140/9781592335848/Apothecary-Cocktails.html

Cep Agaric said...

its awesome post obat anemia herbal

alanib said...

Warren, don't forget to mention my grandparents and your great grand parents, Albert and Yetta Pollack, Jewish Russian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century who were the founders of the company whose family your grandfather married into.

alanib said...

Warren, don't forget to mention my grandparents and your great grand parents, Albert and Yetta Pollack, Jewish Russian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century who were the founders of the company whose family your grandfather married into.