Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Walch on the Import Drugs Act of 1848

Angela Walch, St. Mary's University School of Law, has posted A Spurious Solution to a Genuine Problem: An In-Depth Look at the Import Drugs Act of 1848, which she wrote while a student at the Harvard Law School under the direction of the great food-and-drug lawyer Peter Barton Hutt.
The Import Drugs Act has been relatively ignored by the academic community, and is most often relegated to a passing reference in a footnote. Yet the Act represents an important step in our nation's creation of a safe supply of drugs, and thus deserves some attention. In this paper, I give the Act that attention, and seek to place it in an historical context. In Chapter 1, I describe how Congressional action was prompted by medical conditions during the Mexican War and the belief that American soldiers were being given adulterated drugs. Chapter 2 describes the involvement of the professional health organizations in the fight against adulterated drugs, and suggests reasons why drug adulteration posed such a problem to doctors and pharmacists. In Chapter 3, I look at the legislative history of the Act, through an analysis of the House Report and the Congressional debates on the matter. Finally, in Chapter 4, I look at the mechanics of how the Act was implemented by the Customs Service, and describe its short term effects on the problem of adulterated drugs.