Regulating quack medicine

  • Peter T. LeesonEmail author
  • M. Scott King
  • Tate J. Fegley


Quack medicines were prepackaged, commercially marketed medicinal concoctions brewed from “secret recipes” that often contained powerful drugs. Governmental regulation of them in late nineteenth-century England is heralded as a landmark of public health policy. We argue that it’s instead a landmark of medicinal rent-seeking. We develop a theory of quack medicine regulation in Victorian England according to which health professionals faced growing competition from close substitutes: quack medicine vendors. To protect their rents, health professionals organized, lobbied, and won laws granting them a monopoly over the sale of “poisonous” medicaments, most notably, quack medicines.


Quack medicine Patent medicine Proprietary medicine Regulation Pharmacy Act Poison Rent-seeking 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter T. Leeson
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Scott King
    • 1
  • Tate J. Fegley
    • 1
  1. 1.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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