The first antimicrobial drug was a sulfonamide called Prontosil developed by Bayer AG in 1932. As it was the first drug that could successfully treat a wide range of bacterial infections, its use spread rapidly. While it did not have the capabilities of Penicillin, which would replace it, it became the standard for care during the first half of WWII. In the late 1930s there was a sulfa craze, where every drug manufacturer was creating new forms of sulfa drugs and releasing them to the market, often without any testing. The result of this was the Elixir Sulfanilamide Disaster of 1937 where at least 100 people died from poisoning.
In 1937 the S.E. Massengill Company created a sulfa drug by combining sulfonamide with diethylene glycol (as a solvent) and raspberry flavoring, marketing their new drug as Elixir Sulfanilamide. Unfortunately the chief pharmacist, Harold Watkins, at Massengill was not aware that diethylene glycol was highly toxic and deadly when ingested, dispite the fact that it was known at the time. The drug when on the market in September, and by October 11th the American Medical Association received a report of numerous deaths caused by the medication. An investigation confirmed that at least 100 people had died as a result of ingestion.
The owner of the company released a statement when confronted with the findings, "We have been supplying a legitimate professional demand and not once could have foreseen the unlooked-for results. I do not feel that there was an responsibility on out part." Watkins, the pharmacist who created the drug, committed suicide while awaiting trial. The public outrage caused Congress to respond with the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic act which required all companies to preform animal testing on new drugs and submit data to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent this from happening again.
The Messengill Company was charged with, and paid the minimum fine for, violating the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act by selling a product marketed as an elixir without any alcohol in it.