It's enough to make Speedy Alka-Seltzer hang up his sneakers.
The freckled tyke with an Alka-Seltzer tablet for a torso spent a decade telling Americans he could give fast relief when they ate or drank too much. According to a panel of seven medical experts that reviewed the performance of Alka-Seltzer and other drugs for overindulgence and hangovers, Speedy could have gone easier on the adjectives.
Alka-Seltzer, Pepto-Bismol, Bromo-Seltzer and similar preparations are safe and effective for relieving overindulgence and hangovers, the panel concluded. But fast? Fast compared with what?
"The panel concludes that the following labeling claims are misleading or unsupported by scientific data: . . . . 'Fast relief,' 'quick relief,' or any other term which nonspecifically relates to the speed of action," read one section of a voluminous notice yesterday in the Federal Register. Alka-Seltzer's label still includes the words "speedy relief."
A statement issued yesterday by Miles Laboratories, the makers of Alka-Seltzer, pointed out that the panel objected to the claims of speed on the drug's label, not in its advertising. The statement also noted that the panel's report will now go through a formal notice and comment period before the Food and Drug Administration makes any final decisions.
The panel's report was published by the FDA yesterday as part of its continuing, decade-old investigation into about 70 categories of over-the-counter drugs.
In a separate notice yesterday, the FDA published an expert panel's determination that 15 purported aphrodisiacs, some with reputations almost as old as Aphrodite, had not been proven to do what they were supposed to do.
Oral drugs that contain ginseng root, licorice, sarsaparilla, pega palo leaves, nux vomica, yohimbine, gotu kola, don qual and cantharides (more often known as Spanish fly) should not, the panel recommended, make claims like the following: "acts as an aphrodisiac," "arouses or increases sexual desire and improves sexual performance," "builds virility and sexual potency" and "expands the gift of love."
"Such claims," the report said, "have been transmitted largely through folklore and exploited by manufacturers who prey on the gullibility of people who are most likely in need of counsel or therapy."
It took a more serious view of the use of the hormones testosterone, methyltestosterone and estrogens in oral drugs claiming to be aphrodisiacs. These hormones "are not safe for use except under the supervision of a physician," the experts said.