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What's a bex?

24 Nov 2005

Do you know what 'a bex' is?

Well, in the 1970's there were these headache 'powders' you could buy in the supermarket called Bex. They also had some called 'Vincent's'. They were a mixture of aspirin, caffeine and phenacetin.

Anyway a LOT of women, particularly those at home with the kids would use these Bex powders a lot. They were totally addictive, and caused renal failure. In fact, death by renal failure in women in epidemic proportions in the 70's in Australia.

They had one of the most iconic advertising slogans, I remember it on billboards from when I was a kid. A fifties style woman in an apron and a smile saying 'a bex, a cup of tea, and a good lie down'.

A wonderful doctor named Priscilla Kincaid Smith was instrumental in discovering that kidneys from autopsies in Australia showed a condition of the kidney that was described to her thus: 'Oh, it's terribly common. It's a papillary necrosis. You get it with infections.' To which she replied 'Well, it's funny, you don't get it with infection in London'.

I remember when I was about 7 or so, my friend Leisa's mum used to send us down the corner shop for a packet of Peter Jackson, some bex powders and the milk. She couldn't have been more than 28 at the time. I wonder if she's still alive? My mum, who never was much of a bex lady herself, knows quite a few people who died of kidney failure, and she's only 57.

Anyway, read more if you like.

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