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Bottle for ‘Tabloid’ Phenobarbitone, England, 1933

Phenobarbitone was a drug used to treat epilepsy. It reduced the severity and frequency of seizures and would only be prescribed by a physician. This glass bottle of ‘Tabloid’ phenobarbitone tablets lists the contents as poisonous. The anti-seizure effect of phenobarbitone was realised in 1912 and it fast became one of the most prescribed drugs for epilepsy. ‘Tabloid’ was a brand name for compacted medicines. These were patented in 1884 by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co, the makers of this drug. The instructions on the box are in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, illustrating how the company aimed for and delivered to a global market. Phenobarbitone is no longer prescribed, having been replaced by newer epilepsy treatments.

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Glossary: epilepsy

A disorder of brain function characterized by seizures that occur suddenly. The seizures can be triggered by fast flashing lights, especially strobe lighting.

Glossary: controlled drug

Substances that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (UK). These drugs are classified according to the amount of harm they cause when misused.