Translation by Susanne Schuster
BAYER ad images from 1912 reappeared
In the spring of 1912 the company BAYER started an advertising campaign for heroin in Spanish newspapers. Several of the ad images have now been found again. The corporation launched the “well tolerated cough remedy” in 1898 together with the pain relief Aspirin.
The rediscovered adverts are interesting for several reasons: already very soon after the market launch doctors pointed out the addictive potential of the new remedy. This was discussed extensively among experts while the advertising campaign was running in 1912. Nevertheless BAYER commissioned adverts showing mainly children and recommending the intake of heroin even when symptoms were fairly undramatic such as irritation (irritación) or cough (tos).
In 1900 BAYER had started an unprecedented advertising campaign. Around the world adverts praised the remedy to the skies. There was hardly a disease where the new “magic bullet” was not recommended: multiple sclerosis, asthma, stomach cancer, epilepsy, schizophrenia and many others. Heroin was claimed to be effective even with intestinal colic in babies. Also, for the first time thousands of free samples were sent to doctors.
When critics questioned the safety of the jack-of-all-trades the then BAYER executive director Carl Duisberg adamantly ordered that his subordinates should “silence” the troublemakers. “We cannot tolerate claims around the world that we were carelessly pushing medicines that were not carefully tested,” said the later chief executive of BAYER. The commercial success of Heroin and Aspirin laid the foundation for the rise of the former paint factory BAYER to a global corporation.
Jan Pehrke, board member of Coalition Against Bayer Dangers (CBG), said: “The heroin campaign shows how far back the tradition goes of multinational drug corporations selling dangerous remedies against better judgement and despite urgent warnings only to make a profit.”
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