S. E. Massengill Company

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S. E. Massengill Company was a pharmaceutical company started in 1898. It was founded by Samuel Evans Massengill, who graduated from the University of Nashville Medical School, but decided to manufacture drugs rather than practice medicine himself.[1] By 1937, it employed more than 200 people in Bristol, Tennessee, including six graduate pharmaceutical chemists.

The company was responsible for the elixir sulfanilamide disaster of 1937, described as one of the most consequential mass poisonings of the 20th century.[2] In that year, the company introduced a new product, Elixir Sulfanilamide, which used toxic diethylene glycol as a solvent, leading to the deaths of at least 100 people in 15 states. The company claimed it was unaware diethylene glycol was toxic, although at least 2 previous studies found it to be so. S.E. Massengill placed the product on the market with no safety testing, only appearance, fragrance, and taste tests. The resulting scandal led to the passage of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.[1]

The Massengill company continued to operate as a family-owned pharmaceutical firm until it was acquired in 1971 by Beecham plc., itself later merged into SmithKline Beecham in 1989, and since 2000 merged into GlaxoSmithKline.[3]

On December 20, 2011, Massengill along with other non-core Consumer Healthcare OTC products were sold to Prestige Brands Holdings, Inc. for £426m ($660m).[4]

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  1. ^ a b "Medicine: Post-Mortem". Time magazine. December 20, 1937. Retrieved 2009-07-19. Then, two months ago, fatality knocked at its door. A new mixture of a new drug (sulfanilamide) with a new solvent (diethylene glycol), which Dr. Massengill's salesmen sold as Elixir Sulfanilamide-Massengill, was discovered to be killing its users
  2. ^ Wax, P.M. Elixirs, Diluents, and the Passage of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Ann. Intern. Med. March 15, 1995 122(6):456–461.
  3. ^ Mark S. Lesney, The ghosts of pharma past, Modern Drug Discovery, January 2004
  4. ^ "GlaxoSmithKline provides update on divestment of non-core over-the-counter (OTC) brands". December 20, 2011. Retrieved February 8, 2012.