Sex Advice From Sheik al-Nafzawi

I just finished reading Sheik al-Nafzawi’s Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight, a 15th century sex manual from what is now Tunisia. The Sheik’s advice is quite impressive compared to what was widely known about sex in Western societies up until about 1970.

Some important points that he stresses is that women are extremely randy and have great sexual stamina, that simultaneous orgasm for man and woman is the norm, that a man should use his hand to help the woman along if needed, and that keeping his wife satisfied is a major responsibility of a husband.

There was however also a lot of news to me in the book, like that short women are much randier than tall women, that a diet of chickpeas and onions increases sexual stamina in men enormously, and that it is a good idea to daub a man’s genitals with the irritant extract of pelleter, Anacyclus pyrethrum.

I read Jim Colville’s 1999 translation, not Sir Richard Burton’s more famous but grossly inaccurate one from 1886. Both are available to those who Google.

Luxury Vaccine Tourism

Most vaccines are commercially available in Sweden. There are two vaccine clinics at the nearest big mall to where I live. Two months ago, on 5 December, I mused on Facebook, “Wonder when covid-19 vaccination will become commercially available in Sweden and what the price will be at first.”

This question met with really strong reactions. People accused me of having no solidarity with the sick and elderly, of being a bad Social Democrat, of undermining social healthcare. But I wasn’t suggesting that the vaccine doses secured by the EU from certain manufacturers should be taken out of that system and sold on the open market. Additional manufacturers will pop up, eager to market their products. And taking a vaccine is not like paying to get good cancer treatment for yourself while someone poor dies. Me getting vaccinated benefits the entire herd’s health, not just mine. And if I pay for vaccination outside of the social healthcare system, then that system saves some money.

Anyway, Expressen reported on 28 January that covid-19 vaccination is now sort of available in Sweden, or more exactly, on the Swedish market. And it costs a bit less than SEK 1 million = U$D 120,000 = € 99,000 for two shots. Pricey? Yes, but it includes airfare to Dubai, the UAE, India or Morocco plus luxury accommodation and meals for two weeks. So the market has spoken: if you pay more than $120,000 for two covid-19 shots today, you are not getting a good price.

Swedish social healthcare expects to offer people like me the vaccine for free in April or May. If I can get it legally and locally for less than $120 prior to that date, I believe I’ll go for it. Watch this space.

A Swedish Perspective on COVID19

Our departmental webmaster in Łódź asked me to write this piece from 23 April about my impressions of the Swedish response to COVID19. I’m posting it here too.

As I write these lines I have been distancing myself from society for 39 days, since Monday 16 March. Voluntarily, because I live in Sweden. Our government’s approach to containing the pandemic has been discussed quite a lot internationally. Before I go into that, let me describe my personal experience.

The big change for me is not that I work from home. That’s what I’ve done mostly for many years as a research scholar without a university office. Instead, the biggest thing is that my 16-year-old daughter’s high school lessons are now all online, so she is also home all day, five days a week. We get along really well and it’s frankly an improvement of my circumstances. Another change is that I have only been once to central Stockholm and the Academy of Letters’ research library, and currently the library is closed except by special appointment. And I buy groceries for my elderly mother. My father and his wife have stubbornly turned down my offers to shop for them.

My work has continued as planned, without any major frustrations. I have a pretty good library of my own, the most important Swedish archaeology databases have been online for decades, and these days you can get a lot of new journal papers in PDF format online or simply by emailing one of the authors. I’ve submitted three pieces of writing in these quarantine weeks.

When I take walks and cycle in the Erstavik woods nearby I meet more people than usual. We nod and say hi to each other, but we keep our distance. My parents also go out walking a lot. In Sweden, most of us feel that we need to avoid crowds, but not necessarily sit indoors and wait. My boardgaming group still convenes every weekend, but we have moved to my buddy’s house that is better situated for people to reach it on foot or by bicycle. Nobody wants to use public transport much. We figure that us meeting three “unnecessary” people every week won’t change the progress of the pandemic, and it does a lot for our mental well-being.

As for the official Swedish policy, I understand that the main difference to what other countries do is that going out and meeting people isn’t actually forbidden here. It’s just very strongly discouraged, for reasons that are very clearly explained. And events with more than 50 participants are forbidden for the time being. Some important reasons for this policy, as I understand them, are:

  • By design, Swedish law makes it really difficult to impose a long-term general curfew with sanctions against those who break it. It’s a civil liberties issue.
  • In the long term, we have to build herd immunity to the virus either by infection or by vaccination. We can’t afford to sit around at home until mid-2021 when scientists hope to have a vaccine ready for mass production. You can stop the pot from boiling over temporarily by putting a really heavy lid on it, but sooner or later the lid will fly off. It’s better to turn down the heat and let off the steam a little bit at a time. After a quiet period, there will be a second wave of the pandemic. How high that wave will go depends on herd immunity.
  • Swedish people largely trust our government, and our government largely trusts our scientific authorities. So when the government tells us that the scientists think it’s really important to avoid crowds, then most of us act accordingly. We don’t view this as a policy driven by ideology. It’s not a partisan issue. I would go along with it even if I hadn’t voted for the party that currently governs the country.
  • If you close daycare centres and schools for young children, then someone has to stay home with those children. That someone will often be their dad who is a nurse, their mother who is a doctor, or their grandmother. This will leave you with insufficient hospital staff and a lot more infected grandmothers in intensive care.
  • If you close down your national economy too severely for too long, then even if you don’t suffer many dead during the first wave of the pandemic, everyone will be in extremely poor financial shape when the second wave hits. This can prove lethal in itself.

Of course, there are particular problems in Sweden too. The most important one is that a lot of our very elderly people are in care homes, and the care workers there are generally poorly paid and cannot afford large apartments or cars. So it is a tragic coincidence: the people who run the greatest risk of dying from the virus are cared for by the people who have the greatest difficulty in distancing themselves from crowds: they ride the subway from their crowded homes to work. With predictable results.

A sillier problem is that people have been hoarding goods. First it was pasta and toilet paper, which is ridiculous because Sweden is well supplied with wheat and has one of the world’s largest and most efficient paper industries. The last thing Sweden will ever run out of is toilet paper. But when people calmed down about that, they started hoarding baking yeast. And apparently the one single company that makes yeast in Sweden does not have production capacity enough to capitalise on this sudden enormous rise in demand. But I am OK, I always have a couple of packets of powdered yeast sitting in the cupboard.

Last week was the first one since the pandemic reached Sweden that the number of new intensive care admissions for covid-19 shrank – by 11% . I hope this means that we’re past the crest of the first wave now. We can’t go back completely to normal until after the second wave. And whether our policy is better or worse or indifferent compared to those of other countries, nobody can tell until a couple of years from now.

Update 28 April: ICU admissions have continued to decline: -15% last week. We’re past the crest of the first wave. Phew!

John Massey’s Coronavirus 101

John Massey is an engineer, not a medical professional. But he is smart, interested and well read, and he has a solidly fact-based worldview from a Hong Kong observation point. So I think his information is worth sharing, not least to avoid unnecessary fears. Bottom line: it’s not the end of the world.


Infection: By droplets from coughing or sneezing (max. range about 2m) which can hit you in the eyes, nose, mouth and infect you that way; picking up virus from surfaces (fomites, where it can stay alive possibly for weeks) and then touching the mouth, nose, eyes, where the virus enters through the mucous membranes; direct contact with infected people (shaking hands, kissing, whatever); in at least some circumstances (maybe when the disease has progressed in an infected person to infect their lungs) by airborne transmission (aerosols when people breathe out, so much greater range than droplets, and it can spread through ventilation ducts, central air-conditioning systems, etc.) It is at least as easily transmissible as seasonal influenza, maybe more so.

Incubation: Anywhere from 2 to 14 days (and in a few cases seemingly a lot longer), during which people are asymptomatic but already infectious, so disease control becomes really difficult, particularly combined with aerial transmission. In that scenario, trying to trace all ‘close contacts’ of infected people to identify those who might be infected and quarantine them all becomes an impossibility. But still worth doing, because taking some of those people out of circulation for 14 days quarantine will help to reduce the rate of spread of the virus. The problem then becomes – where do you put them all to keep them in quarantine? Home quarantine becomes an option, but then some people will sneak out, abscond, need to get out to buy food and other essential supplies. But all quarantines leak, they always do, but still worth doing to slow down the rate of spread.

Asymptomatic: Some people remain asymptomatic and recover naturally, but are still infectious while they have virus in their bodies.

Mild: Fever, dry cough, sneezing.

Severe: A % of mild cases will progress to severe, when people begin to experience breathing difficulty – if this is going to happen, it seems to happen about 5 days after the first onset of symptoms (but evidently what takes about 5 days in China is happening in a matter of a few hours in Iran, so it looks like the virus has mutated there to become more virulent), when the virus infects the lungs, and people need supplemental oxygen to keep them alive long enough while they recover from the infection.

Critical: A % of severe cases will progress to critical, where people need intensive support like mechanical ventilation to keep them alive.

Death: A % of critical cases will result in death.

Iran: Worryingly, in a lot of informally reported cases, people have suffered permanent damage to the heart muscle – the whatever, the myocardial muscle. The big pump.

Everywhere: In all severe and critical cases everywhere, some people suffer permanent lung damage.

So, imagine two scenarios: Scenario A and Scenario B.

In Scenario A, public hospitals receive new cases at a rate they can cope with and have sufficient resources to provide the necessary level of medical care, while ensuring that medical staff have sufficient personal protective equipment (masks, eye shields, plastic body suits, etc.) to avoid being infected themselves. Scenario A is what has happened in all areas of Mainland China + Hong Kong + Macau except for Hubei Province. In Scenario A, the fatality rate seems to be around 1%, so about 10x the typical fatality rate for seasonal influenza, which is around 0.1%.

In Scenario B, public hospitals are overwhelmed by being presented with so many cases that they do not have the resources to cope, have only enough beds and can only provide the necessary medical support for the more severe cases, and they do not have sufficient PPE for medical personnel, so a % of them also become infected and some die. This is what has happened in Wuhan (where the case fatality rate has been around 5%) and to a lesser extent in the rest of Hubei (where the CFR has been around 3%), and 3.8% of medical personnel have become infected.

When do you have an epidemic? When you have locally self-sustained transmission of the virus, with an R0 > 1. R0 is the average number of people that one infected person can infect. For SARS-CoV-2, it is working out at about 2.8 on the Chinese data, but you need to watch out for ‘super spreaders’, people who have the ability to shed a much greater viral load and infect many more people, and there have been some of those. R0 is not a constant, and if you can get R0 < 1, the epidemic will die out.

Testing: Difficult, because the early symptoms look like seasonal influenza or a bad cold, so there will be far more suspected cases than confirmed cases. The test developed for it is genetic matching from nasal and pharangeal swabs, you need 3 consecutive tests spaced a day apart to avoid false positives and false negatives, and the test is proving to be imperfect – some people who initially test negative go on to infect others, and then test positive later.

Recovery: The criteria that the Chinese are using, which are pretty solid, are 2 consecutive negative tests + no fever for 10 consecutive days + improving lung scans. But worryingly, some people who have recovered and have been discharged have subsequently infected some others, so now China is quarantining all recovered and discharged cases for a further 14 days.

National epidemics:

China: Guangdong, the second most severely affected province, but still a very long way below Hubei, the epidemic has peaked and died down to close to zero, and they have downgraded their health alert from I to II – I think only Guangzhou and Shenzhen are still locked down, Shenzhen hasn’t had a single new known infection for days now, and everywhere else everyone is back at work, but schools remain closed – so in Guangdong they have done a super job; well done, people. Hubei, the epidemic is still going strong but seems to be peaking (which it will at some point – all epidemics peak at some point), and they have started to ease some of the controls on people’s movements. Wuhan has been much harder hit than anywhere else in the country. Everywhere else in China seems to have peaked and be on the way down.

South Korea: exploding and in very deep shit.

North Korea: reports daily that they still have zero cases. Believe that and you will believe anything. Anecdotal reports that they are burning bodies like crazy.

Japan: exploding, maybe not quite as bad as South Korea, where it is running wild in the armed services and everywhere, but still a very worrying situation.

Italy: starting to explode. They are trying to control it aggressively by locking places down, canceling all of the football matches (you know things are bad in Italy when they cancel the football) and all of the other sensible stuff they can do, but it still looks like they could be in for a bad time, particularly with their aged population.

Iran: officially, not bad – the Ayatollahs are censoring the news, and everything is pretty much OK. Informally, via anecdotal reports from doctors and others in Iran, it is exploding all over the country, and the virus seems to have mutated there into a much more virulent strain; very high numbers of infection, very high deaths. Really bad. Major disaster.

Indonesia: Thinks it has no cases, but then it has no test kits, and no health care system to speak of. They could have a raging epidemic and not know it. That could apply to a lot of African countries too – lots and lots of Chinese people coming and going to various African countries, so it defies belief that none of them have any of it. Ethiopia still has regular commercial flights to China – they must be out of their minds.

USA: The CDC is sensibly on high alert and actively doing what they can to prepare, getting extra equipment, PPE, etc. The biggest risk to the USA is Canada, which is being run by an idiot. Yes, a worse idiot than Trump, if that’s possible.

UK and Australia: The governments keep saying they are well prepared, when they are not remotely – if they get an epidemic, they are screwed, they will be straight into Scenario B.

HK: 74 known cases so far with 2 deaths, so already far fewer than Italy. The local epidemic curve, such as it is, has died right down and we are only getting the occasional small trickle, but some people keep doing dumb things like going to church or the local Buddhist centre or having big group dinners. But people are paranoid and panic-stricken, and the atmosphere is anxiety inducing. The known infection rate so far is 0.001% of the population, so I can’t take seriously the idea that we have something you could call an epidemic, but we need to stay careful. By this stage in 2003, with the SARS epidemic (which I suppose I now have to call SARS-CoV-1) we had more than 1,000 infected and 50 deaths, and by the time it burned itself out at the start of summer we had 299 deaths. This could be potentially a lot worse, but so far the reality is far better. So far.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored in Yokohama: Don’t want to talk about it. Complete shit-show. If you want to read about the whole dreadful debacle, you can Google it. In short, Japan has earned itself widespread international condemnation for the way it has grossly mishandled the whole dreadful mess, and also condemnation from some of its own very experienced infectious disease control specialists.

Vaccines: none yet, and even if they can find one, it will take about 2 years to test, mass-manufacture and vaccinate everyone, so forget that. I don’t want to sound gloomy, but no one has yet managed to find a vaccine for SARS or MERS.

Treatments: none yet, but some individual reported successes with some antivirals, and with plasma from blood taken from patients who have recovered, which has antibodies against the virus (this is far from a new idea, and seems to be quite promising). But they all need proper trials, which will take at least months. In the meantime, the best they can do is just keep you alive long enough for your body’s immune system to fight off the virus.

Who dies: Mercifully, not kids, not even newborns whose immune systems are not fully developed, and not healthy young people. Most at risk of dying are older people, and/or people with pre-existing health conditions like chronic heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory illnesses. And more men than women, both because of smoking patterns in China (half of all men smoke, while fewer than 2% of women do) and because women generally have somewhat better disease resistance. If you are over 80 and have some prior health condition (which almost everyone does at that age), you are basically screwed, but then at that age you are not going to be around for a hell of a lot longer anyway. If you are over 70, you have about an 8% chance of dying, but worse if you have one or more of the above health conditions (assuming Scenario A, not Scenario B).

2015 Enlightener & Deceiver Awards

The Institutet radio show: 2015 Enlighteners of the Year
The Institutet radio show: 2015 Enlighteners of the Year
The Swedish Skeptics have announced their annual awards for 2015.

The Enlightener of the Year award is given to a radio show on Swedish Broadcasting’s channel 3, Institutet, “The Institute”. Show hosts Karin Gyllenklev and Jesper Rönndahl use humour to reach out with science content to a wide audience.

The Deceiver of the Year anti-award is given to a neighbouring show of the aforementioned, channel 1’s Kaliber, “Calibre”. They get this doubtful honour for a show where they suggested that vaccination against HPV, Human Papilloma Virus, carries serious risks. Their slanted and selective reporting of the science may cause some people to withhold this life-saving jab from their kids. I talked to a similarly angle-pushing TV reporter about this in 2013.

I’m Donating White Blood Cells

I’ve been a blood donor for over twenty years. The other day a doctor called me and asked me if instead of my normal quarterly donation, I’d be willing to give a few extra hours of my time along with a chunk of white blood cells. I said yes.

There’s this transplant patient at a hospital in Stockholm. Like all such patients this person, let’s call her Joan (I have no idea what her real name is), is on immune suppressant drugs to keep her body from tossing out the transplanted organ. She now seems to have contracted a difficult infection. Unfortunately she’s developed antibodies against run-of-the-mill donated blood that would work in most cases. So in order to give Joan white blood cells to beat the infection, you can’t just look at the AB and Rh factors, you need to look at tens of genetic markers until you find a rare match. Me, in this case.

For me, it’s three visits to the hospital. Monday morning, they first checked my health, which turned out to be very good. Then they drew some of my blood and mixed it with Joan’s in a tube to see if it would provoke an immune response. When it did not, they injected me with filgrastim. This is a synthetic analogue of the hormone G-GSF, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor. In the body, G-CSF is secreted here and there, and it causes the bone marrow to make granulocytes and stem cells and release them into the bloodstream. Granulocytes are a category of white blood cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers.

After the doctor and nurse had seen that the injection didn’t cause me to keel over, they sent me off with some dexamethasone pills to take Monday evening. This is a steroid similar to the hormone cortisone, which has a wider range of functions, one of which is apparently to get those granulocytes out into my blood quicker.

The doctor warned me that I might feel a little creaky in the evening from the sudden flooding of my system with unneeded white cells. And I did, like if I had the flu coming on distantly. But I consoled myself with the thought that I was still in much better shape than Joan. This morning I was back at the hospital and got hooked up to a centrifuge. They’re taking blood out of my left arm, spinning it up in the centrifuge until it separates into layers by density, grabbing the bottom part of the layer of white blood cells (the youngest ones), and then sending the rest back into my right arm. They’ll keep at this for two hours, then shoot me up with more filgrastim and send me off with some more dexamethasone, for the whole procedure to be repeated tomorrow morning.

Why am I a blood donor? Why am I doing this complicated thing for Joan, whom I’ll never meet? Well, because I’ve been helped many times by modern medicine, I believe in solidarity and I’ve been taught to feel good about myself when I’m altruistic. And really, it doesn’t cost me much to help out here.

If you want to be all Darwinist, then you can actually say that I’m acting in my evolutionary self-interest. Joan and I are genetically similar. In helping her stay alive, I improve the chances of my genes spreading in the population. Joan is a transplantee and might neither have any kids nor be in any shape to bear them in the future, what do I know. But maybe she has nieces and nephews, whose evolutionary environment will be a bit less harsh if their aunt is around to help feed, protect and raise them. And then they may go on to have five kids each who share a lot of my genes. Anyway, me and Joan are blood kin now.

Talking To Stubbornly Angle-Pushing Journalist About Vaccine

As part of my duties as chairman of the Swedish Skeptics, earlier tonight I took part in a studio discussion on Swedish TV4 about Gardasil, the vaccine against human papilloma virus that is offered to all 12-y-o Swedish girls. It was a pretty silly affair. The TV people had decided on the angle that the information given about the vaccine to young girls isn’t detailed enough. For instance, the school hallway fliers don’t tell the kids that the protection rate against HPV isn’t 100% (duh) or that very rarely the vaccine can provoke some serious side effects (duh again). These are traits, I should probably explain, that Gardasil shares with all other vaccines. And they had invited a young lady who suffers from a rare side effect. Not, as I pointed out on air, the 10,000 contemporaries of hers who have not experienced any side effects.

In my opinion, the crew had taken on a feeble story from a feeble angle and run way too far with it. Wouldn’t surprise me if they get their fingers slapped by the Swedish Broadcasting Commission. But still fun to practice my TV skillz.

2012 Enlightener & Deceiver Awards

The Swedish Skeptics have announced their annual awards for 2012. Both the Enlightener award and the Deceiver award are given to the editorial staff of programmes on Swedish national radio.

Medierna is a weekly media criticism show. They roast journalists in an excellently skeptical fashion and have during the year touched upon mistreatment of subjects such as climatology, alternative medicine and vaccination.

Nyhetsguiden is a daily news analysis show. In April and May they ran several anecdote-based antivaccine stories about the ongoing effort to vaccinate prepubescent girls against the cancer-causing HPV virus. This was particularly irresponsible as the Swedish public has a heightened vulnerability to antivax propaganda after the nationwide swine flu vaccination programme was found to correlate with a heightened incidence of narcolepsy. Nyhetsguiden also flirted with climate denialism in November. This kind of reporting is alas what often happens when the science beat is left to general news reporters.

The Huskvarna Drug

Recently while reading Mats Keyet’s 2000 biography of Swedish beat novelist Sture Dahlström, I came across the sad story of the Huskvarna drug. It killed Dahlström’s father and many others.

In 1961 Dr. Hjorton’s powder was made a prescription drug. This measure was of no great consequence anywhere except in Huskvarna, a small single-company industrial town on Lake Vättern. To Americans, it’s probably mostly known for the old Husqvarna motor bike brand. In the mid-1950s the company doctor realised that Dr. Hjorton’s powder was not only dependency-forming but in fact caused lethal kidney damage when taken too often and for too long. Workers at the Huskvarna factory had been taking it regularly even when not ill. They were in fact chemically dependent on a lethal drug. But outside of Huskvarna, few had even heard of Dr. Hjorton or his drug. What had happened here?

The powder was no patent medicine: its composition was known and it was made at the local druggist’s. The ingredients of a dose were:

  • A pain killer and fever reducer: 500 mg phenacetin (Now known to cause cancer and kidney damage)
  • Another pain killer and fever reducer: 500 mg phenazone
  • A stimulant: 100 mg caffeine

Herman Hjorton opened his medical practice in Huskvarna in 1903, the year of his graduation and the year when the gun factory expanded into motorcycles. He was 34 and had sensed an opportunity in the expansive little town. Hjorton was the town’s first doctor and he soon got a reputation for diligence, compassion and approachability, making house calls at all hours. In 1906 a drug store opened in Huskvarna and Hjorton moved his home and practice to the same building.

In 1918 the Spanish flu pandemic struck: an aggressive influenza that often caused lethal pneumonia, particularly in young and strong people. Medicine at the time had no antiviral drugs (we still don’t for flu) and the first antibiotics were hard to come by after WW1, so there was not much a doctor could do for the sufferers. Except for the fever, and the muscle pain that was a common symptom of the viral infection. Dr. Hjorton could treat those. And so he came up with his formula, which actually seemed to help.

Hjorton’s 50th birthday party in 1919 was a huge event for the town, whose inhabitants saw him as a hero. When he died of a heart attack four years later, the whole district was rocked by grief and he was given the biggest funeral in Huskvarna’s history. He had been cycling to a patient when his heart gave out. But though the Doctor was dead, his formula lived on and the sales continued to increase.

Sales increased though the pandemic was over? People were no longer taking it as a flu remedy. They took it as a stimulant. Everybody knew about the powder after the pandemic, and since it wasn’t a prescription drug no doctor needed be involved when you bought it at the drug store. Nor was there any limit to how much you could buy. Many working class families took Hjorton’s powder every morning. Factory workers found that the powder made them faster, stronger, less tired and free of pain. This improved their earnings: in the 1920s performance-related pay became common. They took the powder at work, offering each other a baggie of Dr. Hjorton’s like workers elsewhere would share cigarettes or snuff. The medical establishment didn’t react other than to call it a bad habit. And Dr. Hjorton himself had become a silent authority.

During WW2 phenacetin became rationed and Huskvarna’s inhabitants had to mail-order the powder from drug stores all around Sweden. Their use of it peaked in the 1950s, when one Huskvarna drug store sold 8000 baggies a day. The company that made the baggies was told that a million of them would only last for three months in that drug store. And for some reason, the town’s workers were dying young of kidney failure.

Indirectly, the Huskvarna drug decades ended thanks to the labour union. It was making a general demand that major factories employ doctors, and so, in the early 50s when the drug use was approaching its peak, Kurt Grimlund was hired as company doctor. He came from the neighbouring town of Jönköping where he had already seen an unusual number of kidney failure cases. In 1953, Swiss researchers published a study documenting a link between phenacetin use and kidney damage. Phenacetin was a widely prescribed drug, and so the study sparked intensive international research, some of which Grimlund performed in Jönköping. As a result phenacetin became a controlled substance in Sweden in 1961, and in 1983 it was taken off the list of legal drugs entirely.

But what about the Huskvarna substance abusers after 1961? No doctor would prescribe anywhere near the amount of Dr. Hjorton’s that they were used to taking. They were recommended Koffazon powder instead and seemed quite happy with it. It probably helped that Grimlund had run an information campaign about phenacetin and early death at the factory in the mid-50s. Koffazon is still an over-the-counter drug in Sweden. It’s Dr. Hjorton’s powder minus the phenacetin.


This blog entry is based on C. Andersson 2009, Sippan som hjälpte mot allt. En studie runt det omfattande bruket av Dr Hjortons pulver som ägde rum i staden Huskvarna och på fabriken Husqvarna AB, BA thesis, Jönköping University College. She refers repeatedly to K. Grimlund 1963, “Phenacetin and renal damage at a Swedish factory”, Acta Medica Scandinavica, Stockholm. Andersson’s maternal grandfather died young from kidney failure in Huskvarna.