My favorite is the one pictured on the left for Mornidine, which was prescribed for morning sickness. (According to this FDA document, approval for Mornidine was withdrawn July 17, 1969.)
Searching around, I found an advertisement for Benzadrine Sulphate, an amphetamine. The promo language is more explicitly clinical: “In the severe depression of the menopause marked by apathy and psychomotor retardation.”
However in an advertisement for Benzadrine developed in 1952 (right-side image; larger image here), the emphasis is again on ensuring women are up to their domestic duty. A woman stands before gigantic household appliances, tormented by her daily load: “Doctor, I’m tired all the time … even the thought of beginning a day’s housework makes me tired.”
The image itself is actually quite striking. Very sci-fi. It would have been a terrific illustration for The Feminine Mystique — the medical profession’s perfect cure-all for “the problem that has no name.”
Drug ads today, of course, are not as retrograde; they rarely appeal to women’s inherent domesticity. But under the linguistic veil of “choice” and “empowerment,” they still prey on women’s insecurities. And since the FDA loosened the regulations on direct to consumer advertising for prescription drugs in 1997, every one of us — not just physicians — must be aware of these ads’ manipulative discourse.