Pharmaceuticals, Training Sessions and Bear Grease


Hello irrepressible reader.

Miriam and I were privileged to attend the London Museums of Health and Medicine (LMHM) Winter Annual General Meeting (AGM) alongside our colleague Frances. The LMHM is a group of museums, societies and libraries that all come together to share knowledge, ideas and support each other through their shared subjects of medicine and health. (Stick around for a “Phun Pharma Phact” at the end.)

After an arduous cross-city tube journey and some inspired navigational skills by yours truly (“Of course I know which way I’m going…”), we arrived at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) – the location for this year’s AGM.


The RPS recently moved location and are now based a few minutes’ walk from the Tower of London in a swanky looking building. The visit started with a tour of their new exhibition space, showing off some of their interesting rarities. They have the largest delftware drug jar collection in Europe (or maybe the world?) and other fascinating items demonstrating how bizarre and unregulated the history of pharmaceuticals was.

After our tour, we had a session on ‘How to chair a meeting and facilitate a public event’. This involved a staged actor pretending to be an irate member of the AGM. I fell for the whole act and genuinely thought that we had an incredibly aggressive museum enthusiast in our midst. Alas, it was all a set up and became the premise for the rest of the session on how NOT to handle a public event.

The session was quite insightful and Dr Glaser (the host) did an excellent job of demonstrating how to handle these sometimes tricky situations.

The final act of the visit was to have the actual General Meeting. This included updates on aspects of the groups running such as website statistics, voting in new organisations in addition to general updates from anyone that wished to do so. It was great to see how a variety of different organisations have come togetherimag0797 to form an effective collaborative group that is able to share different expertise in order to benefit as a whole.

The day ended with mulled wine and mince pies. I had some apple juice instead. Frances managed to spill mince pie and mulled wine everywhere much to our embarrassment. I don’t imagine we will be welcomed back.
Anyway, the part you’ve all been waiting for. PHUN PHARMA PHACT:

So if we go back a few hundred years, morphine was the master cure for pain as a derivative from opium. Not much was known about its addictive properties until there already was an epidemic but fortunately, a German pharmaceutical company had come up with a brand new product in the late 1800’s that could treat pain that was not only safe but non-addictive – this product was called Heroin. This “product” didn’t become regulated until the 1920’s but again this was too late, with thousands of people globally now addicted to the substance.

Okay, so maybe not as “fun” a fact as you were expecting but I thought it was a really emblematic demonstration of how little we used to know about the medicine and treatments people use to take. Other interesting factoids from the tour involved using bear grease to prevent hair loss and fictional cure-all’s more likely to kill you than heal you. It was also interesting to learn how the pharmaceutical industry has evolved and only in recent years have we actually begun to truly have any idea what these concoctions are actually made up of.



2 thoughts on “Pharmaceuticals, Training Sessions and Bear Grease

  1. Phil S December 20, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    Yeah the bear grease thing…doesn’t work, sadly. 😦


  2. Lisa January 3, 2017 / 1:53 pm

    Heroin was routinely used in a number of early 20th century medicines to help soothe babies (a far more dangerous, early form of Calpol). Also as heroin gave a pretty big bang for your buck, buying a small quantity from the pharmacist was cheaper than buying several pints of beer on a Saturday lads’ (or lasses’) night out in late Victorian England. Fascinating subject (sorry the History geek in me is coming out again)


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