Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dose me doctor

As many did in Melbourne this year, R got a dose of persistent coughing, a virus I suppose. His doctor gave him penicillin. He had a bad reaction to it and broke out in a shocking rash. The cure was worse than the disease.

As old fashioned as penicillin is, apparently it is still somewhat of a wonder drug and very effective at treating certain possible life threatening aliments.

I could compile a list of where privatisation of public assets has not worked. This is just one more example.

Back in the good old days we had the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, a government owned authority set up to produce, investigate and to research drugs. I expect back then the Lab might have even produced penicillin. CSL was privatised and is now answerable to shareholders and not us via our government.

And now we find doctors having to restrict their use of penicillin as there is an insufficient supply for normal use. What sort of third world country are we living in? Why is the supply of penicillin in the hands of CSL when they cannot secure a reliable supply line of the most basic of drugs?

Some things in life are just to important to be left in the hand of the profit makers.


  1. Until about 15 years ago I was given penicillin for the usual raft of ailments with no ill effect. Then (as a result of a hideous dental infection) I was given penicillin and like R I broke out in a mass of red blotches and other symptoms I guess were similar to an asthma attack.

    Now that's down on my list of allergies with my GP - along with my allergy to latex. (No comment necessary Shirl.)

  2. Yelp, I'm another who had a bad reaction to Penicillin recently. Just a couple of months ago my dentist gave it to me for an infected tooth, but I broke out in a terrible rash of red just a couple of days before finishing it. Of course I had to finish taking ALL the pills because of the neurotic perfectionist I tend to be. Anyway, the tooth is fine now.

    Maybe they messed up the last batch and that's why there is such a short supply. I've never ever had an allergic reaction to anything before in my life, and now I wonder what they'll prescribe if I should need a strong antibiotic. We shall see.

  3. Couple of thoughts, sometimes words like Penicillin are used in a fairly generic way and like a lot of drugs there may well be variations so we may not be talking about the same thing.

    Having said that quite a number of people are alergic but luckily there are variations so no real problem. The antibiotic resistant strains of bugs are the real problem.

    Because penicillin is a very common drug I would be surprised if CSL is Australia's only supply and even if it is it could easily be imported from elsewhere. I would imagine there are other reasons for any shortage, not sure what they would be though given it is common etc.

  4. The problem is antibotic resistant strains of bugs that are around, they mutate everyday into stronger strains and we are trying to play catch up :-).

  5. Hello Andrew:
    You raise some very pertinent questions here. As we found through the treatment of Leukaemia, drugs can be in very short supply and the treatment of simple infections can be a matter of life or death without prompt and effective medication. Reactions to these drugs can also be very aggressive and debilitating. Answers are complex when one takes account of financial constraints and the resistance of new bugs to antibiotics and we fear that the situation worldwide is becoming increasingly worrying.

  6. Big Dog Talking - CSL IS Australia's only supply, hence the uproar over why it has gotten this bad. I'm disgusted at this situation.

  7. I am so with you on the question of things being too important to be left in the hands of profit makers. Health and education leap to my mind, but there are others too. Sigh.

  8. Yeah ... things like power, water, prisons, public transport, telecommunications, aged care. But what would I know??

  9. it has been privatised yet retains 'Commonwealth' in its name?

    penicillin and latex are both very common allergies.
    Poor R to get another ailment on top of the one he needed hep with. X X

  10. No comment made then LS. Pretty horrible ordeal.

    Towanda, I wonder if your conspiracy theory might have some merit? It would explain a shortage if a lot had to be thrown away.

    Big Dog, this is specifically penicillin. It used for very specific problems, mainly heart and skin problems, and there are no other anti biotics that target such infections with so few side effects, unless you are allergic. CSL has only one supplier, which is remiss of them.

    Quite so Windsmoke. We must always finish our anti biotic courses to minimise resistant bugs.

    JyaLa, leukaemia? I am alarmed. I guess all is well now, I hope anyway. In this day and age, the only reason drugs could be in short supply is economic and profits.

    It is bad Fen. Power has been taken from doctors as to the most appropriate drug, now that they have to ration.

    EC, hi. I can't agree more.

    And Red, why at one time were they in government hands? Because private companies could not or would not do such things properly. They still don't.

    Ann, I would guess its proper name now is just CSL. I think that was just the week before we met when R had those problems.

  11. I've just heard on ABC News that cancer drugs, anaesthetics and other drugs are also running short. WTF is going on, that's just ridiculous.

    Apparently it's coz we're relying on cheap generic brands manufactured in China and India. How fkn stupid is that. TGA should be flogged.

  12. Fen, I just heard that it is because the system works like the supply of car parts, just in time. Any delay means a shortage.