Author Topic: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?  (Read 6387 times)

Offline AllPurposeAtheist

Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« on: February 05, 2016, 07:22:41 PM »
Some of you probably have never heard of it, but it used to be in almost every household in the medicine chest.. I remember it like it was yesterday..
So anyway...from http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2518/what-happened-to-mercurochrome
Quote
What happened to Mercurochrome?
July 23, 2004

Dear Cecil:

I had skin surgery recently and was told to apply Mercurochrome to aid in scarless healing. The product, once widely available, is sold by only one vendor in Boise, and I'm told they manufacture their own. Another pharmacist told me they were not allowed to handle or sell it. What happened to this antiseptic that I grew up with?

— David Young, Boise, Idaho

You're dating yourself, pops. Few under age 30 have ever heard of this stuff. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that Mercurochrome, generically known as merbromin, was "not generally recognized as safe and effective" as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. A few traditionalists complained: Whaddya mean, not generally recognized as safe? Moms have been daubing it on their kids' owies since the Harding administration! But the more reasonable reaction was: It's about time.

For many years the FDA, faced with the task of regulating thousands of pharmaceuticals and food additives, many of which long predated federal oversight, has maintained the so-called GRAS (generally recognized etc) list, originally compiled as a way of grandfathering in products like Mercurochrome that had been around for ages and hadn't hurt or killed a noticeable number of people. Recognizing that from a scientific standpoint such a standard left a lot to be desired, the FDA has been whittling away at the unexamined products on the GRAS list over time. Mercurochrome and other drugs containing mercury came up for scrutiny as part of a general review of over-the-counter antiseptics that began in 1978, and for good reason--mercury in large enough doses is a poison that harms the brain, the kidneys, and developing fetuses. While no one's offered evidence of mass Mercurochrome poisoning, the medical literature contains scattered reports of mercury toxicity due to use of the antiseptic, and these days the burden of proof is on drug manufacturers to show that their products' benefits outweigh the risks. In the case of Mercurochrome and many other mercury-containing compounds, that had never been done.

The FDA initially proposed clipping Mercurochrome's GRAS status in 1982 and asked for comment. Hearing little, the FDA classified the antiseptic as a "new drug," meaning that anyone proposing to sell it nationwide had to submit it to the same rigorous approval process required of a drug invented last month. (This took place in 1998--nobody's going to accuse the FDA of rushing to judgment.) It's not out of the question that a pharmaceutical company will do so someday--published research on Mercurochrome, though hardly abundant, suggests the stuff is reasonably effective. However, the approval process is time-consuming and expensive and any patent protection Mercurochrome might once have had surely expired long ago. For the foreseeable future those yearning for that delicious Mercurochrome sting will have to look somewhere else.

Other notes from the mercury wars, as long as we're on the subject:

    Already illegal in some states and municipalities, mercury fever thermometers appear to be headed for history's dustbin. The U.S. Senate approved a federally mandated phase-out in 2002, although the bill didn't make it through the House. Even in jurisdictions where mercury thermometers are still legal, many drugstores are dropping them in favor of the digital electronic type, which are unarguably safer--although you don't get to play with those cool quicksilver globules when they break.
    Despite two decades of controversy and threatened legislative bans, amalgam ("silver") tooth fillings, which are half mercury, are still a mainstay of dentistry. Although some health activists claim the mercury leaches out of the fillings and into the body, the FDA in a 2002 statement reaffirmed the mainstream view, to wit: "No valid scientific evidence has shown that amalgams cause harm to patients with dental restorations, except in the rare case of allergy."
    Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines, is suspected of causing autism and other neurological disorders in children. A recent review by a panel of prominent scientists found no evidence for the much-publicized autism link; nonetheless thimerosal is no longer used in most vaccines, flu shots being the chief exception.
    More than 30 years after the alarm was first raised, mercury accumulation in fish remains the chief source of exposure to the toxic metal in the U.S. The FDA advises that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish entirely and limit consumption of albacore tuna (canned white tuna and tuna steaks) to 6 ounces (one meal) per week. Canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish are said to be OK for up to 12 ounces per week. Some say even these guidelines, particularly the one for albacore, are too permissive. I'm not one to encourage the paranoids, but when you look at some of the brain-damaged decisions that get made in this country, often you can't help but think somebody's mom ate too much fish.

— Cecil Adams
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Online Mermaid

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2016, 08:07:25 PM »
I get bad flashbacks thinking of mercurochrome. Jeezus that stuff stung. But it was a pretty color.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Offline Baruch

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2016, 10:20:14 PM »
Aspirin wouldn't be approved today, it is grandfathered.  Given the side effects on sensitive people, most of the drugs sold would be banned under the same regulations ... but Big Pharma gets what it wants.  Certainly I got Mercurochrome when I was little, but it may have been a grandfathered patent medicine, that outlived its history.  Unfortunately, there are a lot more industrial metals and chemicals running about, that didn't exist 200 years ago in the public domain, that are horrible pollutants, not just mercury.
Ha’át’íísh baa naniná?
Azee’ ła’ish nanídį́į́h?
Táadoo ánít’iní.
What are you doing?
Are you taking any medications?
Don't do that.

Online Mermaid

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2016, 10:49:45 PM »
Given the side effects on sensitive people, most of the drugs sold would be banned under the same regulations ... but Big Pharma gets what it wants. 
WTF does this even mean?
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Offline Atheon

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2016, 11:38:11 PM »
Never knew Mercurochrome had met this fate. Thought it was still widely available. I rarely used it, though.
"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." - Seneca

Offline AllPurposeAtheist

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2016, 01:00:45 AM »
I remember it being applied with some little plastic stick in the bottle.. twas instant fire on a minor scrape...it sure kept you from running to mama every time you fell down.. Maybe that was its secret..
All hail my new signature!

Admit it. You're secretly green with envy.

Offline Baruch

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2016, 08:04:55 AM »
WTF does this even mean?

If the medical regulatory rule is ... "do no harm".  And if "placebo" equals fraud ... then there are no medicines that can be allowed, including "natural" remedies.  People are not homogeneous.  Every medicine out there that isn't a placebo ... will hurt someone.  Not every patient, but some of them.  Being allergic to a medicine is just one symptom.  Grandfathering happens when an existing medicine no longer meets current standards.  Mercurochrome was grandfathered, but then lost it (this was political not medical ... because under that standard, aspirin would be banned too).

Personally, I have no problem with medicines ... I avoid them as much as I can, and only use over the counter in favor of prescription (usually stronger medicine) when I can ... and avoid over the counter as much as I can too.  Neither I nor the doctor know which of these I might have a reaction to.  If you ever listen (in the US) to medicine advertisements on TV, they have to disclose the potential side effects ... which can be mild to horrendous (death).  If a medicine potentially causes death, and it is allowed ... then why ban mercurochrome?
Ha’át’íísh baa naniná?
Azee’ ła’ish nanídį́į́h?
Táadoo ánít’iní.
What are you doing?
Are you taking any medications?
Don't do that.

Offline SGOS

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2016, 08:10:08 AM »
I have a memory of my mother applying it to my knee, and telling me it would prevent the scrape from being infected.  I remember her saying that some people wondered if it might be dangerous in some way, but that no one had actually proved that it was.  She said we would use it until someone proved it was more harmful than good.

The other common alternative to use on cuts and scrapes, at least at my house, was iodine.  We had small vials of both, and I don't think I could tell them apart except by the shape of the bottle.  As I recall, I would whine as my mother applied mercurochrome, but iodine was far worse.  My mother thought iodine was probably better stuff, but for little cuts and scrapes, mercurochrome was good enough.

As I got older, other antiseptics started showing up.  Bactine was often advertised on TV, but such newcomers were not commonly used.  I assumed they weren't as good.  None of my friends talked about them.

It's odd that this thread came up, because in the last few months, a memory of iodine and mercurochrome came back to me, but for no particular reason that I know of.  I wondered where and why it went away.

Online Mermaid

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2016, 10:34:16 AM »
If the medical regulatory rule is ... "do no harm".  And if "placebo" equals fraud ... then there are no medicines that can be allowed, including "natural" remedies.  People are not homogeneous.  Every medicine out there that isn't a placebo ... will hurt someone.  Not every patient, but some of them.  Being allergic to a medicine is just one symptom.  Grandfathering happens when an existing medicine no longer meets current standards.  Mercurochrome was grandfathered, but then lost it (this was political not medical ... because under that standard, aspirin would be banned too).

Personally, I have no problem with medicines ... I avoid them as much as I can, and only use over the counter in favor of prescription (usually stronger medicine) when I can ... and avoid over the counter as much as I can too.  Neither I nor the doctor know which of these I might have a reaction to.  If you ever listen (in the US) to medicine advertisements on TV, they have to disclose the potential side effects ... which can be mild to horrendous (death).  If a medicine potentially causes death, and it is allowed ... then why ban mercurochrome?
Because it contains a harmful heavy metal. Modern medicines are safety and efficacy tested. They are not perfect, but they are the best we can do. It's very difficult to get FDA approval.
Mercurochrome is not safe according to present safety standards. Equating it to modern medicine because "Big Pharma" gets what it wants is just not an educated statement.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Offline AllPurposeAtheist

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2016, 11:01:27 AM »
Just about anything could potentially not meet the FDA standards.. Let's not forget dihydrogen monoxide and all the havoc it's created over the years and the many people killed by it..
All hail my new signature!

Admit it. You're secretly green with envy.

Offline Baruch

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2016, 12:04:03 PM »
Because it contains a harmful heavy metal. Modern medicines are safety and efficacy tested. They are not perfect, but they are the best we can do. It's very difficult to get FDA approval.
Mercurochrome is not safe according to present safety standards. Equating it to modern medicine because "Big Pharma" gets what it wants is just not an educated statement.

You trust the FDA ... I do not.  You trust science (as in tobacco company type science) ... I do not.  But I am not saying ... don't use over the counter or prescription drugs.
Ha’át’íísh baa naniná?
Azee’ ła’ish nanídį́į́h?
Táadoo ánít’iní.
What are you doing?
Are you taking any medications?
Don't do that.

Online Mermaid

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2016, 12:15:45 PM »
You trust the FDA ... I do not.  You trust science (as in tobacco company type science) ... I do not.  But I am not saying ... don't use over the counter or prescription drugs.
I am in drug development for a "Big Pharma" company, so this is what I do.
How exactly do you think drugs are discovered, developed and approved? Payola?
It has always been interesting to me how so many people theorize that the FDA is in bed with "Big Pharma". I know firsthand that quite the opposite is true. We have to work HARD to get agency approval, and they very often throw back millions of dollars worth of research for extremely small things.

Conspiracy theories annoy the shit out of me because they are generally uninformed. Go ahead and fill in the gaps instead of understanding the straight dope, that is your prerogative. There's no difference between that and religion, from my angle.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Online Mermaid

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2016, 12:17:28 PM »
I also find it interesting that the same people who whine about Big Pharma are the first people to also whine when the agencies don't approve experimental drugs that target problems they deem to be Important, like cancer drugs Ebola vaccines because "curing them would not make them as much money".
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Offline trdsf

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2016, 09:40:56 PM »
Wow, I haven't thought about mercurochrome in some time.  I had it daubed on me countless times.

Wonder whatever happened to Demazin?  That was our go-to medication when the coughs and sniffles started.  It was prescription only when I was little, then OTC, then gone.

(googles that)

Well, damn.  Banned because one of its ingredients was linked to strokes in young women.  Okay, don't give it to them.  I'm an old man, I want my drug cocktail that worked.
"My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total, and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution." -- Barbara Jordan

Offline stromboli

Re: Ever wonder what happened with Mercurochrome?
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2016, 11:35:00 PM »
Stromboli has Hydrogen Peroxide. Stromboli is wise.