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Looking Back at 1994–1996.
"Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” The mid-1990s proved that to be true, presenting a variety of influences that continue to shape worldwide culture: Nelson Mandela won the first multiracial election in South Africa; Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay got their start; and computers got an upgrade with Windows 95.
America reached for the sky in more ways than one, with NASA’s Galileo being the first spacecraft to arrive at Jupiter and the premiere of Toy Story. Oscar-winning films such as Forrest Gump (quoted above), The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction, and Jerry Maguire were other notable films that had lasting impact. Little kids watched cartoons like Rugrats, while older ones laughed at Beavis and Butt-Head. Shows that are binge-worthy today, like Friends, Seinfeld, and Law & Order, were also popular back then.
The Spice Girls got what they really, really wanted with their first No. 1 hit, “Wannabe,” in 1996. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio was 1995’s song of the year. Also on the airwaves were Snoop Dogg, Blind Melon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Mariah Carey. Music suffered significant losses with the unexpected passing of Jerry Garcia and the suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain at the young age of 27.
One of the most defining moments that captivated the world in 1994 was the double-homicide of famed Buffalo Bills player O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. After an infamous car chase, a circus of a trial, and the echoing phrase “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” a jury found Simpson not guilty. The victims’ families filed a wrongful death suit in 1996, in which Simpson was found responsible for the deaths to the tune of $33.5 million in damages. It was dubbed the trial of the century, and countless documentaries, TV series, and books have been and are still being made about it to this day.
In sports, Brazil won the World Cup over Italy on penalty kicks. Michael Jordan came out of retirement after playing minor league baseball for a year. The Winter Olympic Games were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Originally favored to win in those games, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was forced to sit out after being attacked by rival Tonya Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and his accomplice, Shawn Eckardt.
The Summer Olympic Games were held in Atlanta, Georgia, during which a domestic terrorist pipe bombing in Centennial Olympic Park injured 111 people and killed two. Security guard Richard Jewell, who discovered the bomb before detonation and began clearing spectators out of the park, was famously investigated as a suspect by the FBI before being cleared three months later.
In the pharmaceutical world, the FDA approved the first vaccine for chickenpox in 1995, something that was overall welcomed and nowhere near the scrutiny that the COVID-19 vaccines have been facing recently. That year, the FDA also approved OxyContin, a controlled release of oxycodone, used for pain relief. As AIDS became the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25 to 44, the first non-blood-based antibody test for HIV was given the green light.
The global battle around pharmaceutical patents began in earnest with the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994, including an annex agreement on intellectual property rights known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
States chose to give indoor smoking the boot, a sigh of relief for patrons everywhere. Scientists discovered the first gene linked to Alzheimer’s Disease (APOE-e4), coincidentally the same year the world learned that former US President Ronald Reagan had been diagnosed with the disease.
Though “no one told us life was gonna be this way,” the mid 1990s provided us a rich variety of events that continue to show their influence today—and surely for many years to come.
Miranda Schmalfuhs is an Assistant Editor for Pharm Exec. She can be reached at email@example.com.