This American Athelet’s Jaws Fell Off After Drinking A “Miracle Drug”!

This American Athelet’s Jaws Fell Off After Drinking A “Miracle Drug”!

Eben McBurney Byers was a wealthy American socialite, athlete, and industrialist who met a tragic and bizarre end. Byers was prescribed a drink for a minor injury on his arm in 1972. This radium-infused water, known as Radithor, initially gave him a “toned-up feeling” and hyped his energy levels.

The drug marketed as a “Miracle-drug,” was also a patent medicine but it led to the horrifying disintegration of his bones. His teeth and jaws fell off and had even got holes in his skull. Let’s have a closer look at the details of the full story.

The Introduction to Radithor: The “Miracle” Drug

Eben Byers was born on April 12, 1880, into a privileged family. His father, Alexander Byers, was a successful industrialist. Byers was an exceptional golfer, winning the U.S. Amateur in 1906, and served as the chairman of the Girard Iron Company, a business founded by his father. His lifestyle was that of a typical American socialite, filled with sports, parties, and high society events.

In 1927, while returning from a Yale-Harvard football game, Byers fell from his berth on a train and injured his arm. For the persistent pain, his doctor, C. C. Moyer, recommended Radithor, a radium-infused water marketed as a cure-all.

Radithor was created by William J. A. Bailey, a Harvard dropout who falsely claimed to be a doctor. Bailey advertised Radithor as a stimulant for the endocrine system and offered a kickback to physicians for prescribing it. The drink became popular in the 1920s, and Byers started taking several doses daily. Initially, he felt a “toned-up feeling” and believed the radium water improved his health and energy levels.

Image source: Wikipedia / Find A Grave

The Horrifying Effects of Radithor

After consuming around 1,400 doses of Radithor over three years, Byers began experiencing severe side effects. He lost weight, suffered from headaches, and his teeth started falling out. By 1930, the situation worsened as his jaw began to disintegrate and his bones decayed.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) got involved and asked Byers to testify about his experience. However, he was too ill to travel. So, an attorney took his statement. The lawyer reported that Byers’ upper jaw, except for two front teeth, and most of his lower jaw had been removed. He also had holes forming in his skull due to bone disintegration.

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The Fallout: Byers’ Decline and Death

Eben Byers’ health continued to deteriorate, and he died on March 31, 1932, from multiple radiation-induced cancers. His body contained so much radium that even his breath was radioactive. He was buried in a lead-lined coffin to prevent radiation from seeping into the soil.

Byers’ death received significant media attention, raising public awareness about the dangers of radioactive medicines. The FTC issued a cease-and-desist order against Bailey’s business, halting the sale of Radithor. Bailey continued to defend his product but eventually died of bladder cancer.

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Legacy and Lessons Learned

Byers’ case prompted significant changes in medical practices and safety regulations. MIT physicist Robley Evans studied Byers’ radium intake and its effects on other radium dial painters. These studies contributed to the understanding of radium’s dangers and led to stricter regulations.

The FDA’s role in ensuring the safety of medications was expanded partly due to Byers’ tragic experience. Today, rigorous testing and approval processes are in place to prevent such occurrences, ensuring medicines are safe and effective before reaching the market.

Image source: Medium


Eben Byers’ story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unregulated medicine. His tragic experience led to important changes in public health and safety regulations, highlighting the need for scientific research and regulatory oversight in medical treatments.

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