3rd December 1820. Take a Pill!


Beecham’s Pills ‘worth a guinea a box’, the great standby for Britain’s ills was highly contentious as the British Medical Association in 1912 found they only contained aloe, ginger and soap.


In 1972, now the Beecham Group, made a bid for Glaxo, who then in retaliation made a defensive bid for Boots, but all to be rejected by the Monopoly Commission.(1)

It was Today in 1820 that Thomas Beecham was born at Curbridge, Oxfordshire, destined to leave school at eight to be a shepherd boy.

He noticed the grasses the sheep ate and in the process developed a working knowledge of herbs, the result was Beecham’s Pills, ‘For bilious and nervous disorders and smallpox’, as the advert misleadingly said.(2)

Which brings me to ‘Bad Pharma’ by Goldacre, which investigated the way the pharmaceutical industry ‘undermines the scientific process in favour of profits. Then how these are placed before patient welfare and non-disclosure of damning research evidence and the duping of doctors’ appraisal as part of the same process’.(3)

Ghost Image for beechams

Ghost Image for Beecham’s Pills.

The book quoted, ‘poorly designed trials and tested by the people who designed them on small unrepresentative patients using techniques flawed in design that they exaggerate the benefits. And when the trials don’t produce the desired outcomes, distort evidence and suppress data making it impossible for people to evaluate the claims’.


Goldacre refers to articles in medical journals, ‘ghost-written’, by company insiders. He also states that ‘low serotonin is cited as a means to sell anti-depressants [the big seller], which it appears has little support in academia’.

Glaxo, now Glaxo Smith Klein in 2012 was fined in the USA for promoting drugs inappropriately and failure to report safety data along with kick-backs to physicians amounting to millions of dollars. It was fined £1.9b the largest health care fraud in the US.

The Author is old enough to remember the disastrous Thalidomide in the 1950.s for ‘morning sickness’, and are Statins beneficial as everyday we are confronted with conflicting accounts in the media?

In the meantime keep taking the pills.

(1) Glaxo Laboratories in 1958 acquired Allen & Hanburys the UK’s largest pharmacy company originally set up by a Quaker, Silvanus Bevan of the Plough Court Pharmacy off Lombard Street, London.

Allen & Hanbury was retained as a separate marque. Allen’s involvement with Plough Court Pharmacy began in the 1790s working for Samuel Mildred a thriving business with the Apothecaries Company emblazoned on a window. It traded as Mildred & Allen which had links with Guys Hospital.

(2) Beechams used the doggerel poetry of  William McGonnagall in 1894: Advertised to be a guinea a box/For bilious and nervous disorders and smallpox/And dizziness and drowsiness also cold chills/And for disorders nothing can equal Beecham’s Pills.

(3) Ben Goldacre went to UCL medical school and is supported by David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology in his pursuit of good science in their critique of the pharmacology industry. Lectures formed the bedrock of medical education at UCL, so graduates. had a good idea of statistics, epidemiology and and healthy scepticism of the all claims which other schools don’t necessarily have.


Top Pics: google images/Flickruler/Flickr.

onthisday.com/Ray Sellefield/huntsman advert.

Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients.Ben Goldacre, Fourth Estate, 2012.

theguardian.com. Simon Neville. 3.7.2012/ Pic of Housing.

wikipedia.org. GSK.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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