The Medicine Maker

Editorial Note: This is based on the Finnish National Epic, the Kalevala. The image comes from the series painted by Axel Gallen to illustrate the Kalevala.

Crusoe spent years trying to make a Medicine Maker. She was finally successful at the end of a long Winter just as the first signs of growth appeared on the trees. Everyone for miles around came when they heard the news. People with oozing tubercular abscesses were given isoniazid and cured. Children with bacterial endocarditis were brought in on their deathbeds and after taking penicillin got up off their beds and walked. Epileptics in mid-convulsion were given diazepam and settled down and then stabilized on carbamazepine. There was no end to the wonders.

Everyone remembered it as the most glorious summer in the area about Turku.

News of these wonders came to Lilly in her Lapland fastness. She sent out messengers to confirm if this really was true – that there was such a wondrous Machine. Yes it was true each of her messengers told her. She must have it, she decided.

She summoned a trusty troupe and on Midsummer’s Night when everyone was busy partying but there was plenty of light for the raiding party to see what they were doing, she broke into Crusoe’s laboratory and stole the Machine.

The following day everyone woke late from the Midsummer festivities and it took time for them to realize the Medicine Maker was gone. There was consternation. No-one had any idea where it had gone. Summer turned into Autumn with still no clue.

But finally word leaked out from Lapland that Lilly had the Machine but could not make it work. Still she wouldn’t give it back.

Crusoe formed a plan. To ease the difficulties of travelling in mid-Winter, they would travel by boat up the Gulf of Bothnia to Lapland. After that they would travel overland to Lilly’s fortress and see whether they could retrieve the Medicine Maker.

Arriving in late December, they found the guards asleep at the fortress gate. Everyone inside was asleep. They found the Medicine Maker and made off with it.

When Lilly awoke some days later and found the Medicine Maker gone, she flew into a frightening rage. Summoning her Myrmidons she set off in pursuit. By this time Crusoe and her band had reached their boat on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Placing the Medicine Maker in the bottom of the vessel, they set sail for the South.

They were gone three days, with home in sight, when the midday sky in the North behind them darkened ominously. The cloud approached rapidly dissolving into a flight of the most enormous vultures each with a warrior on its back. It swooped down on the boat and a tussle began between the Pharmers turned sailors and the vultures with Lilly’s troops on their backs.

In the struggle the Medicine Maker fell overboard into the Gulf.

Lilly retreated.

Crusoe and her band who lived near the shore where the accident had happened sent repeated expeditions attempting to retrieve the Medicine Maker from the depths but to no avail. However they kept up the hunt because invariably each of these efforts led someone to come across a new medicine that had just popped to the surface liberated from the Machine beneath. There was not the plenty of before but there was enough to be grateful for.

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  1. GlaxoSmithKline statement – BBC Panorama – 29 January 2007

    This statement has been issued following the BBC Panorama programme, ‘Secrets of The Drugs Trials’ which was aired on Monday 29th January.

    GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) strongly denies the allegations made by Panorama in their programme that it has acted in any way improperly and wishes to make the following points:
    ◾We are extremely concerned that as a result of the programme patients will be anxious about using their anti-depressant medication.
    ◾Patients concerned by issues raised in the programme should seek advice from their doctor.
    ◾Depression is a severe and disabling condition. A well-recognised, tragic outcome of the disease, particularly among young people, is suicide. Careful monitoring of all patients is essential, regardless of whether they are taking medication or not.
    ◾In developing Seroxat, GSK has always been strongly conscious of the duty it owes to the millions of patients, including those under the age of 18, who suffer from depression and we refute any allegation that we have failed in this duty. GSK conducted nine studies, over eight years, to examine the use of Seroxat in treating patients under the age of 18 with depression and other psychiatric disorders, as treatment options for these vulnerable patients are extremely limited.
    ◾GSK utterly rejects any suggestion that it has improperly withheld drug trial information. Results from its paediatrics studies were documented and submitted to regulators in accordance with regulatory requirements. Results were also presented publicly, published in scientific journals and are available on GSK’s website.
    ◾No suicides were reported in any of the nine paediatric trials conducted by GSK. When reviewed individually, none of these trials were considered by GSK or independent investigators to show a clinically meaningful increase in the rate of suicidal thinking or attempted suicide. Only when all the data became available, at the end of the research programme, and were analysed together was an increased rate of suicidal thinking or attempted suicide revealed in those paediatric patients taking Seroxat . GSK brought this analysis to the attention of the regulatory authorities, including in the UK.
    ◾GSK does not promote its medicines for indications for which they are not approved. The company strongly refutes any suggestion that Seroxat was promoted to UK doctors for use outside the terms of the UK marketing authorisation, whether through clinical experts (“Key Opinion Leaders”) or any other route.
    ◾Seroxat has never been approved by EU or US regulators as a medicine for those under 18 years of age. GSK’s UK product labelling has been entirely consistent with that position, and at the time of the events in question, this label stated: “the use of Seroxat in children is not recommended, as safety and efficacy have not been established in this population.” Any decision to prescribe a medicine outside its authorised indications, in the EU or the US, is made by a doctor on the basis of his/her clinical judgement and the interests of their patient.
    ◾The JAACAP (Keller) publication in July 2001 was authored by Dr. Keller and the other named authors. GSK acted appropriately in engaging a professional medical writer to provide assistance with the manuscript, under the direction of the authors, and the medical writer’s contribution was clearly disclosed on the front of the article. The authors had full responsibility and editorial control for the article. The article clearly presented, in full, the primary and secondary outcomes and adverse events reported in the study.
    ◾GSK, in 2004, further demonstrated its commitment to data transparency by creating an unsurpassed on-line database, called the Clinical Trial Register (CTR). This is a record of detailed summaries of more than 2,800 clinical trials (published and unpublished) conducted in 50 countries to study 52 GSK prescription medicines and vaccines which is available to the public at

  2. Birth of the Nine Diseases

    “Thus Lowyatar named her offspring,
    Colic, Pleurisy, and Fever,
    Ulcer, Plague, and dread Consumption,
    Gout, Sterility, and Cancer

    ….. Gave these wicked sons of evil
    To the people of Wainola,
    To the youth of Kalevala,
    For the Kalew-tribe’s destruction.
    Quick Wainola’s maidens sicken,
    Young and aged, men and heroes,
    With the worst of all diseases,
    With diseases new and nameless;
    Sick and dying is Wainola.

    ….. Thereupon old Wainamoinen,
    Wise and wonderful enchanter,
    Hastens to his people’s rescue,.

    ….. Thus he speaks in supplication:
    “Come, O Ukko, to my rescue,
    God of mercy, lend thy presence,
    Give these vapor-baths new virtues,
    Grant to them the powers of healing,
    And restore my dying people;
    Drive away these fell diseases,

    ….. Ending thus, old Wainamoinen,
    The eternal, wise enchanter,
    Rubbed his sufferers with balsams,
    Rubbed the tissues, red and painful,
    With the balm of healing flowers,
    Balsams made of herbs enchanted,
    Sprinkled all with healing vapors,
    Spake these words in supplication.
    “Ukko, thou who art in heaven,
    God of justice, and of mercy,

    ….. Lend me, therefore, of thy wisdom,
    That I may relieve my people,
    Save them from the fell destroyer,

    ….. Let their wasting ailments vanish;
    Drive the Death-child from Wainola,
    Nevermore to visit Northland,
    Never in the course of ages,
    Never while the moonlight glimmers
    O’er the lakes of Kalevala.”

    ….. Wainamoinen, the enchanter,
    The eternal wisdom-singer,
    Thus expelled the nine diseases

    ….. saved his people from destruction.”

    Elias Lönnrot physician, botanist, and linguist (1802-1884) complied The Kalevala from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology.

    Väinämöinen is a shamanistic hero, an eternal sage. Ukko is the supreme god and also the god of the sky and thunder.

    The Kalevala has been translated into at least 60 different languages. The above excerpts are from a translation by John Martin Crawford.

    The moral conclusion:

    May the Medicine Maker continue to rest at the bottom of the Gulf of Bothnia.

    May those who abuse the power of the Medicine Maker be banished to Ukko, the ancient Sami sacrificial island in Lake Inari (Lapland.)

    May David of Gwynedd and his Word Maker continue to have “sisu” – a Finnish word for all of the following: guts, stamina, will power, tenacity, persistency, perserverance, action against all odds, ability to overcome all obstacles.

    The God of Ice Storms struck Toronto a few days ago – and so between power failures – good night from one who knows the power of ‘the balm of healing flowers and balsams made of herbs enchanted’ and also the power of healing words. And now, off to read The Kalevala.

  3. David_Healy says:

    Further comment from Maie Liiv

    Most likely no one will read my comment posted to your Medicine Maker blog – it was fun doing it anyway. No one will see it because very few understood what you were talking about when you wrote that particular blog. Most of your readers don’t have a European education – so Greek, Latin, world history, mythology will be a mystery to them. An editor friend of mine used to say that ‘the first duty of a magazine is to be read’ – and so it is the first duty of a blog. I frequently see comments from your followers that they don’t understand what you are trying to say. But they don’t stop reading.

    I found the blog interesting because Finland has had to walk a very fine line in its relationship with Russia/the USSR. You are walking a fine line in your relationship with the drug cos.

    I’m not Finnish – I’m Estonian. We have our own epic poem Kalevipoeg – which I have read and the image I chose for my website and my facebook page is one from a Soviet-era Estonian illustration of Kalevipoeg.

    Estonians have many attributes in common with Finns – like waiting patiently for exactly the right moment to stab the enemy through the heart. I have some work to do before I am ready to stab. I have not yet recovered from what was done to me 10 years ago. I don’t think it is possible to forgive the unforgiveable. The drugs can be a nightmare – but ECT can be too.

  4. Zyprexa destroyed my Health.
    I was just overtrained, but
    They wanted to destroy
    me instead of listening.

    There is no point in using an attorney,,,, The
    psychiatrists and pshychologists are

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