When I was a child back in the early 1950s, a patent medicine called Hadacol was the rage of the United States, especially in the South. People claimed it could cure a variety of ills and gulped it down by the gallons before the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) pulled the plug.
Hadacol was mainly a mixture of B vitamins in a foul tasting base that was 12% alcohol. Many teetotalers shunned alcohol but swore by the healing powers of Hadacol. Later they found out they were just on a cheap drunk.
Hadacol was invented by, you guessed it, a politician, Louisiana State Sen. Dudley LeBlanc. He was not a doctor or pharmacist, but he knew how to sell the public “snake oil.”
When asked where he got the name for his product, LeBlanc said, “I hadda call it something.” When TV comedian Groucho Marx had LeBlanc on Marx’ show, he asked LeBlanc, “What is Hadacol good for?” LeBlanc answered, “It was good for $5 million for me last year.”
Hadacol was promoted all over the country by traveling caravans, which included entertainment, followed by a pitch for Hadacol and sale of the product. Entertainers who got on the Hadacol train included country singers Hank Williams and Roy Acuff, comedians Milton Berle and Lucille Ball and actors Cesar Romero and Judy Garland.
Well, here we are, nearly three-quarters of a century later, and we still have politicians with their snake oil promotions.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the nation, we have people hoping for that magical cure. Donald Trump has jumped on the snake oil bandwagon, since he sees his bumbling response to the pandemic sending his second-term hopes down the drain, which is where most “miracle cures” belong.
Currently, Trump’s latest miracle COVID cure is an extract of the poisonous oleander plant, being promoted by that “great medical authority,” Mike Lindell, CEO of the MyPillow company.
Dr. Cassandra Quave, an assistant professor at Emory University, warns of possible cardiac toxicity of the drug, which has not undergone medical testing. It has shown the ability to kill viruses in test tubes.
Oleander, a plant renowned for its beauty, is highly toxic and has been responsible for many cases of accidental poisoning to both humans and animals. It’s known to cause irregular heart rhythms, often with lethal outcomes.
Trump previously promoted hydroxycholoroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a COVID cure and preventive measure. He even claimed to be taking the drug himself, but of course, we all know how believable Trump is. FDA testing found no benefits and warned of possible heart problems.
In addition to that particular snake oil, you may recall Trump also suggested injecting disinfectants into the body or inserting ultraviolet light might cure the deadly virus.
As the old saying goes: “Never trust a politician who tells you how to pray or a preacher who tells you how to vote.” I would add to that, “Never trust a politician who tries to prescribe medicine.”
The cure for our nation’s problems is not some snake oil salesman, but somebody who values science and truth and is a real leader.
Winston Jones is a former journalist living in Carrollton