How was it that one man, working alone, could make a discovery that eluded hordes of well-financed researchers working in well-equipped laboratories?
The journey started one summer evening back in 1952, at a party on Long Island, when a man complained to a dentist friend that he was in misery – he had had several teeth extracted that afternoon.
Later, on his way home, the 27-year-old dentist – Dr. Robert I. Schattner – started thinking about his friend’s complaint. And decided to try to do something about it. Although Dr. Schattner’s private dental practice was keeping him busy 12 hours a day, he schemed to find time for a task he knew was to be of several years’ duration.
Dr. Schattner sold Chloraseptic in 1962 to the Norwich Pharmacal Company.
To get the project off the ground, in early 1953, Dr Schattner enlisted the aid of a druggist in Bayside, New York. The friend let him use a little drugstore space to weigh and measure ingredients in off-hours- early in the morning and late at night. It took him until 1957 to come up with the right formula. Chloraseptic was born.
But making the discovery was only the first step. The product had to be thoroughly tested and it had to be known to the public-a tall order for a man working alone and maintaining a dental practice. As a first step he arranged for clinical studies to be made so its performance could be scientifically established. The studies showed that the product was safe and every effective.
He now had a product that was safe, effective and approved by the FDA
Now that he had a product that was safe, effective and approved by the FDA he had two more huddles – production and marketing. Neither of which he had any prior experience with. He started by filling, after hours, with the help of his nurse 1oz bottles to be used as samples. He had an active dental practice but he would take Friday off and go to various cities in the New York area and give out samples to dentist in those cities.
When the dentist used up the samples and wanted more, Dr Schattner gave some local druggists free samples and told the dentists they could buy more from those druggists. When the druggists ran out, he gave Chloraseptic to a wholesaler and told the druggist they could buy more from the wholesaler. He expanded his distribution by shipping a case of 12 bottles to distributors though the United States on the basis that they only had to pay if they reordered. The word spread of Chloraseptic effectiveness and one by one wholesalers began stocking and re-ordering and the product became available in every pharmacy in the United States.
Eventually there was sufficient demand to warrant hiring a commercial bottler. It was difficult finding a bottler that would handle the small quantities. More than once he was told “How do we know you will stay in business”.
Giving away free samples created a strain on the company
Giving away these free samples created a strain on the company financially and twice the company was rescued by loans from the Small Business Administrative. The second loan came within hours of bankruptcy at a time when the company had substantial orders for the product, but no immediate funds for bottling. At the last moment, a bank vice president had enough faith in the discovery to advance the funds before they were actually approved by the S.B.A.
Progress was agonizingly slow. But by mid-1961, the product had achieved almost full national distribution. And so, without much fanfare, but with a huge amount of persistence on the part of one man, a new medical advance had come into being.
Dr Schattner sold Chloraseptic in 1962 to the Norwich Pharmacal Company. He then started developing another product, Sporicidin, This product is used by physician, hospitals, and dentists to sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment. It was later found to be effective in eradicating mold. He sold Sporicidin in 2008 and finally retired.