Elixir Sulfanilamide Disaster (1937)

In the year of 1937, more than 100 US citizens (mostly children) died after the consumption of Elixir sulfanilamide. Elixir sulfanilamide was raspberry-flavoured antibiotic syrup which was manufactured by the company S. E. Massengill Company of Bristol, Tennessee.


Initially, Sulfanilamide was a drug in tablet and powder form which had been used to treat streptococcal infections. It had been shown to have remarkable curative effects and had been used safely for some time. Elixir sulfanilamide came into existence when sulfanilamide was demanded in liquid form. Elixir sulfanilamide was an inappropriate preparation which was prepared by dissolving sulfanilamide in diethylene glycol (a toxic solvent). The company tested the elixir only for its appearance and palatability before its distribution.


This preparation had been proven to be a disastrous because it caused mass poisoning in the United States. Consumption of elixir sulfanilamide resulted into the deaths of several people. The disastrous event prompted the passage of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (1938).


The summarized history of Elixir Sulfanilamide is depicted below in the form of flowchart.