Worst Upjohn Products  

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In the earliest years of the company, which started in 1886, the level of real pharmaceutical knowledge was appallingly low. There were horrible side effects to many medications but people were so desparate for relief - any relief. With the benefit of 120 years of hindsight and several generations of medical research, we now know these were among the worst products ever sold by Upjohn..........

Blue Mass is 33% mercury. It was used to treat syphillis, tuberculosis, constipation, tootache, parasitic infestations and the "pains of childbirth". 3 grains of Blue Mass per pill in this 1890's bottle amounts to 65mg of mercury. The World Health Organization currently recommends that mercury exposure in food be no more than 2 micrograms per kg of body weight per week. So people who took one pill per day of this Upjohn Blue Mass would have a mercury level 2000 times higher than today's safe limit!

The first active ingredient below, Calomel, is an old name for mercury chloride. So even infants were being dosed with mercury. This bottle dates from around 1930.


A tonic is supposed to perk you up - make you feel good. However, this tonic from the 1920s contains strychnine, arsenic and mercury. The recommended dose is 1 to 2 pills after each meal. It's sort of a deadly dessert.


When you have eczema, your skin hurts and you want something soothing to rub on it. No luck here, This lotion contains hydrocyanic acid (the liquid form of hydrogen cyanide gas), nitric acid and mercuric chloride.  That's chemical warfare on your tender skin! This bottle was filled on January 3, 1925.

Did the world in 1925 really need a product combining two deadly poisons, strychnine and belladonna.....

Chlorodyne was a widely used product in the 19th and early 20th centuries for cholera, diarrhea, insomnia, neuralgia, migraines and other conditions. It contains morphine and cannabis (marijuana). How could that combo not make anyone feel good? Of course, it was highly addictive and death from overdoses were frequent occurrences. Coroners reports often stated that the deceased was surrounded by many empty Chlorodyne bottles. 

You may have used creasote as an outdoor preservative for wood. It smells terrible and is not something you want to get on your skin. But here we have creasote pills from the 1890s. These were used to aid with stomach problems. It would be hard to choke down these gut bombs so later versions of them were chocolate coated.

Cannabis (marijuana) in a sedative? Wow, you might sleep but have the craziest dreams and of course, addiction would be a big problem. Be very thankful for Unisom!

Here's one more tonic. This one claims to be restorative but contains arsenic, mercury and quinine. Quinine was historically used for treating malaria and has some nasty side effects, which is why it is no longer the first or second choices for malaria treatment.

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