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Packet of Bex Powders, 1965 - 1975
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Object statement
Medication and packaging, 'Bex Powders', medicated powder / paper, made by Beckers Pty Ltd, Australia, [1965-1975]
Bex pills and powders are an Australian cultural icon immortalized in the title of a 1960s Philip Street Theatre review, itself borrowed from the vernacular: 'A cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down'. And while everyone knew that the analgesic properties of the aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine in Bex and Vincent's Powders were used by Australian housewives to help them get through the day, it took a doctor newly arrived from South Africa in the 1960s, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith, to recognise that these substances were addictive and that the massive doses of phenacetin taken by habitual users were causing widespread kidney disease. Eventually, in response to political activism, government controls were put on analgesic products in the 1970s.

This packet of Bex Powders dates from a time when the powders still contained phenacetin, but there is a cautionary notice on the box that states: ' Warning: This medication may be dangerous when used in large quantities or for a long period'.

'From Mr Sin to Mr Big: a history of Australian drug laws', by Desmond Manderson, Melbourne: Oxford University Press (1993).

'Interview with Professor Kincaid Smith', Australian Academy of Science
According to the packet the Bex Powders were made by:
Beckers Pty Ltd
Cnr Crown and Campbell Streets

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Medication and packaging, 'Bex Powders', medicated powder / paper, made by Beckers Pty Ltd, Australia, [1965-1975]

A box containing 'Bex Powders'. The cardboard Bex Powders box is printed in the distinctive blue, yellow and black livery of this brand. It contains 10 of the original 12 doses of powder, each individually wrapped in a paper. Text on the box indicates that 'Each 14 gr. powder contains 42% aspirin 42% phenacetin and caffeine (citrate)'. There are directions for use and the powders are recommended for 'headache, neuralgia, influenza, lumbago, rheumatism, sciatica and all nerve pains'.
Text inscribed on front panel of box "Bex / Regd Trade Mark".
Text inscribed on top panel of box "Bex / Powders / EACH 14 GR. POWDER CONTAINS 42% ASPIRIN / 42% PHENACETIN AND CAFFEINE (CITRATE)".
Text inscribed on back panel of box "Bex / For headache, neuralgia, influenza, lumbago, / rheumatism, sciatica and all nerve pains. / WARNING: THIS MEDICATION MAY BE DANGEROUS WHEN / USED IN LARGE QUANTITIES OR FOR A LONG PERIOD. / BECKERS PTY. LTD., Cnr. Crown and Campbell Sts., SYDNEY".
Text inscribed on base panel of box "DIRECTION - If not under medical advice, take as follows for symptomatic / relief of: HEADACHE, NEURALGIA, RHEUMATISM, SCIATICA, LUMBAGO: / One powder. Repeat in an hour if necessary. INFLUENZA and COLD in / early stages: One powder as soon as you feel cold coming on, and again at / bed-time with hot lemon drink. / CHILDREN under 1 year - do not administer except on the advice of a doctor. / 1 to 2 years - not more than 3/4 powder in 24 hours. / 2 to 5 years - not more than 1 powder in 24 hours. / Over 5 years - not more than 1 1/2 powders in 24 hours. / Do not administer to children for more than 24 hours. / Do not vary children's dosage except on the advice of a doctor. / CAUTION - USE STRICTLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH DIRECTIONS".
Text inscribed on each side panel of box "Bex / 12 Powders / 12c".
Production date
1965 - 1975
30 mm
81 mm
30 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Gift of Overseas Medical Mission, St Vincent de Paul Society, 2003
+ Medicine
+ Drug use
+ Drug abuse
+ Womens health
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{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/340661 |title=Packet of Bex Powders |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=23 February 2017 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}

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