Saturday, March 22, 2008
The creator of Miltown died this week, the pill that helped so many women get through their pre-liberated days in the 1950s. (Miltown was the prelude to Valium, christened by the Stones in their first album as "mother's little helper.") The man who invented Miltown, Frank Berger, was also a pioneer in HCP advertising. At first, the company he worked for balked at distributing his invention after polling showed that doctors were lukewarm about it. So Berger put together an industrial showing the drug's calming effect on rhesus monkeys and screened it for an industry gathering of prominent docs. Within months, Miltown was the best-selling drug ever marketed in the US, so popular that pharmacies couldn't keep it in stock. "Out of Miltown" and "Miltown Available Tomorrow" signs became common in pharmacy windows.
A few years later, Berger acknowledged that the pill could be habit-forming. But he placed the blame for such a habit squarely with the consumer, claiming, "One just expects that it will be used properly. There is no warning on scalpels, 'This is sharp, don't cut yourself.'" Oh for a time machine that could zap me back to that trusting era. As a trial lawyer.