This advertisement was placed in the June 1957 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by Grant Chemical Company, one of the many drug firms that produced DES. It was aimed at convincing doctors to prescribe their brand of diethylstilbestrol, called desPLEX.
At the time, ‘direct to consumer’ marketing was illegal so the best way of promoting pharmaceutical brands was to convince doctors to prescribe them. Because it was cheap and easy to produce DES was heavily marketed in advertisements like this.
Aside from the compelling baby, this ad shows how hard drug companies pushed the use of DES – as not just for problem pregnancies. The small print at the bottom of the ad reads:
“Recommended for routine prophylaxis in ALL pregnancies . . . 96 percent live delivery with desPLEX in one series of 1200 patients – bigger and stronger babies, too. No gastric or other side effects with desPLEX – in either high or low dosage.”
What isn’t known is how many doctors actually heeded the suggestion and prescribed DES to ALL of their pregnant patients.
Some doctors may have known DES was included in formulations of prenatal vitamins they prescribed. Since DES was heavily marketed at the time as safe and effective doctors might have actually preferred vitamins containing it. Sadly, they’d certainly heard quite a bit about this “wonder drug” from numerous pharmaceutical companies that ran successful DES advertising campaigns.