What is Hadacol?
Hadacol was a patent medicine popular in the United States in the 1940s. It was developed and marketed by Dudley LeBlanc, a Louisiana entrepreneur and state senator. LeBlanc claimed that he stumbled upon the recipe when his own doctor administered a seemingly miraculous treatment that, LeBlanc claimed, brought him back from the point of death. LeBlanc made outrageous claims for the medicine, marketing it as a cure for virtually every illness, including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, epilepsy, and hay fever. Hadacol enjoyed enormous popularity on the U.S. market, even though it consisted mostly of alcohol and vitamins and had little medicinal value.
Hadacol is considered by many to have been the last patent medicine. Many believe that LeBlanc's marketing techniques drew strongly upon the 19th century American tradition of the traveling medicine show, in which salesmen pitched often useless, and sometimes even harmful, home remedies by way of vaudevillian entertainment.
The medicine contained about 12 percent alcohol, as well as B vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium and phosphorous. It also contained dilute hydrochloric acid, which, LeBlanc claimed, allowed the formula to absorb more easily into the body. A small bottle normally sold for $1.25 US Dollars (USD), while the larger size bottle typically fetched $3.50 USD. LeBlanc successfully marketed this patent medicine through a multi-pronged campaign that included old-time traveling medicine shows, traditional advertising, comic books, and jingles.
According to LeBlanc's claims, both adults and children could benefit greatly from Hadacol. Adults and children over 12 were advised to mix one spoonful of it with half a glass of water four times per day. Children aged 6 to 12 were advised to take three spoonfuls four times per day, while children aged two to six were advised to take two spoonfuls four times per day.
While those who used Hadacol often reported that it relieved their symptoms, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found no evidence to support LeBlanc's claims, and he was obliged to withdraw them. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that the sole physician who endorsed Hadacol, a Dr. L.A. Willey, in fact carried a previous conviction for practicing medicine without a license. In the end, LeBlanc sold the company to the Tobey-Maltz Foundation of New York, an organization devoted to cancer research. The foundation, however, quickly discovered that the company was deeply in debt, and that they, not LeBlanc, were responsible for paying off the creditors.
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