Views & Reviews Drug Tales and Other Stories


BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 14 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2938
  1. Robin Ferner, director
  1. 1West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reactions, Birmingham City Hospital, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK
  1. R.E.Ferner{at}

“What would you not give, when pain has you in its grip, to know the joy of the normal?” What indeed? Thermogene, first marketed in the 1900s by the Belgian pharmacist Charles Vandenbroeck,1 claimed to be “the good Genie of Bliss to the pain-racked sufferer—a priceless boon when pain gnaws and stabs. Thermogene … brings joy in its train. Its influence is deep down in the tissues—it warms, soothes, solaces—it brings tranquility, peace.”

The label in French reads “ouate révulsive.” “Ouate” is wadding. “Révulsive,” according to Harrap’s French-English Dictionary means revulsive, which I might have guessed had I known the word. Revulsive medical treatments, it transpires, are (or were) counterirritants. Thermogene was …

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