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The Dimple Maker and other odd medical products - (1/16/2018)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro
Joe was in the pharmacy and went up to the pharmacist looking quizzical. “What the heck are these?” Joe asked. “They are Handerpants. Underpants for your hands. I suppose they are for people who wear gloves and want another layer of something,” replied the pharmacist trying to sound convincing. “Have you sold any?” asked Joe. “No, just a lot of questions and funny looks,” said the pharmacist. “The salesman said they would be the greatest thing since yoga pants and lubricated condoms.”   

As H. L. Mencken famously said, “You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Perhaps, that was the intent of Isabella Gilbert, who hailed from Rochester NY, when she developed the Dimple Maker in 1936. Dimples were desirous and people envied screen actors who had them, whether it was Shirley Temple or Clark Gable. To produce the desired indentations, this metal device was worn over the cheeks while two knobs pressed into the jowls. One would do this for 5 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. The American Medical Association argued that the “Dimple Maker” would not make dimples or even enlarge natural dimples. They also stated that prolonged use of the device may actually cause cancer, although the AMA never specified what type of cancer.  

The Birthing Centrifuge, patented in 1965, was intended to make childbirth easier on mothers. The idea was for the woman to lie on a large disc. The disc would be spun allowing the centrifugal force of the rotation to pull the baby out of the birth canal. You would need a nurse with a big catcher’s mitt to stop the baby from slamming into the wall or before the umbilical cord snaps the kid right back into the womb. 

Another invention that aimed to put centrifugal force to good use was the Old Age Rejuvenator Centrifuge that won its patent in 1935. This machine was designed around the theory that if the person experienced less pressure from gravity, the aging process could be slowed. The person would lie on a large disc with his head positioned outward toward the rim of a large disc. Spinning would commence. There were no comments as to how long or how often one would need to be spun to defy aging. 

The 1988 Braces Alarm was a Pavlovian-inspired apparatus that was essentially a timer placed in an orthodontic patient’s mouthpiece. It would sound a piercing alarm to remind the patient to wear his headgear. The headgear would be equipped with a magnet that would turn off the alarm when put on. Basically, it was a tossup between crooked teeth and going deaf. The alarm was intended to be sufficiently irritating and embarrassing to cause the person to prefer wearing the headgear rather than hearing an ear-piercing siren. Unsurprisingly, humanity passed on it.  

The Relax-A-Cisor was introduced in 1949. This gizmo was straight out of a death row movie. Pads with electrodes were attached to the person’s muscles which were given jolts of electricity to “exercise” the muscles while one peacefully reads or watches TV. It was taken off the market in the 1970’s when users started experiencing abnormal heart rhythms, miscarriages, aggravated hernias, and seizures.

Undeterred by the pharmacist’s recounts of these crazy medical products, Joe said to the pharmacist, “I think I will buy these Handerpants. They are just what my mother needs. She wears gloves to church.”   

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com. Read more at www.rx-press.com

 


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