Normality returns; so why can’t I spend a penny?

Opening up our commercial and social lives we maybe but it’s still not much fun. Walking into town last week I struggled to sense that expected joy from the ending of lockdown. In spite of some hopeful optimism and open shop doors, many aspects of communal life remain shut and as I passed the doors of locked and shuttered pubs I yearned to visit inside, loiter with friends I haven’t seen for months, drink beer and talk rubbish. It will …

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Testing is our most effective Covid-19 intervention not dexamethasone…

Great news indeed that good old dexamethasone has proved so effective in reducing deaths in seriously ill Covid-19 patients. The drug was almost dismissed as a candidate for the Recovery trail since it proved relatively ineffective in treating SARS and MERS but it seems to effectively manage the ”cytokine storm” associated with Covid-19 severe respiratory syndrome. We await the peer-reviewed paper but the numbers need to treat to save one life is 8 for ventilated patients and 25 for patients …

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Bloomsday blues for an exhausted Pharmacist…

I have had enough. I need a break and I had planned to get away this week. The pharmacy was mayhem and madness from a week before lockdown and for a month after. The pressure has eased but I am exhausted. I feel like Herman Melville’s Ishmael in Moby Dick. “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth, whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…. I account it high time to get to sea..” The last …

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Seamus Heaney and the dullness of “Grey Cement”…

seamus heaney

One wintery evening in the early 1970s, a RTE film crew arrived at my boarding school, St Columb’s College on Bishop Street in Derry, to make a TV documentary. It was rare excitement in the boredom and routine that defined the boarders’ lives. The subject of the documentary was an ex-boarder, the poet Seamus Heaney. One scene involved an actor – or perhaps it was the poet himself –sneaking down the wrought-iron fire-escape attached to the grey-stoned gable of Senior …

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Is Trump a narcissist?

In the last few days, as America teetered on the brink of social meltdown, Joe Biden made a speech rounding on the President and suggesting his “narcissism” as a reason for Trump’s penchant for creating division. Narcissists get such a bad press and I have often wonder if they are over represented in political classes. Yet most of us, including Joe Biden, don’t really appreciate or understand what a narcissist is. They are much more complex and infinitely more interesting …

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What is the evidence for and cost of lockdown?

Many are doubtlessly bored with protracted and pedantic discussions on the rights and wrongs of lockdown as a tool to mitigate Covid19 deaths. No one is dispassionate; we are either for and resistant to opening up or against and demanding our economy and our grannies back. As England moves to lessen restrictions there are concerns from SAGE advisers that now is too early accompanied by a whiff there might be protest resignations from our academic boffins if their views are …

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Attire for a pandemic. Let’s mask up…

My daughter who studied fashion at Uni. has found a lucrative niche in designer cloth face-masks and they’re proving popular with her fashion-conscious peers and their trendy mothers. My other daughter, teaching overseas, cannot leave her apartment without a surgical face-mask – the blue ones – and off course internationally there is more and more pressure to make the wearing of face-masks in public mandatory. Face-mask fashion is de rigueur, the modern equivalent of the late-medieval Plague Doctor’s attire with …

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Why wait for a Covid-19 vaccine; could we consider “natural vaccination”?

The race is on and the stakes high. A safe and effective vaccine in the near future is the best chance we are told of controlling a virus that brought so much death and economic destruction in the first half of 2020. A vaccine without side-effects administered to the whole population and giving total protection is what we seek but are unlikely to achieve. Things just don’t work this way, but that should not stop us trying. There is already …

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Why, who are you anyway? – Casual encounters with celebrities…

I’m with the good people of Dalkey going that extra mile to keep superstar celebrity Matt Damon in his box. Graham O’Toole and Nathan O’Reilly, hosts of Spin 1038’s morning radio show, should not have been so mawkish and sycophantic after hounding Matt out of his Dalkey lockdown hideaway and he telephoned the show. It is simply not the Irish thing to do. Chasing ratings is one thing but these boys have let down the side and all the stoical …

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Who could disagree with the UK lockdown?

With the lockdown accepted almost as an article of faith it seems reckless in the extreme to even suggest it could be wrong. Apostates are hunted down all over social media and ridiculed, punished and belittled with methods designed by the Church of Scientology and inspired by the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith or maybe their FaceBook accounts are just deleted. Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro received righteous contempt for their foolish suggestions that we could ride-out the …

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Not waving but drowning – The need to reduce inequality…

How was your lockdown? Bored by now? I feel life coming back: restaurants getting cleaned, outdoor tables appearing at cafes, more traffic on roads and a general spirit of giddy optimism rising again. We said we would get through it and we have and even before Buoyant Boris announced it, we were making small, tentative baby-steps into a new future as we test our ability to survive in a World with Covid. But we are not returning to from where …

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Covid-19 just part of Darwin’s dangerous idea…

Some years back, the vagaries of cheap air travel and the capriciousness of meetings schedules conspired to place me in central London with a few hours to spare.  So I took that rare opportunity to visit the Gothic cathedral that is the Natural History Museum (NHM) to see a Charles Darwin exhibition.   In my youth, pathetic in the eyes of my peers, Darwin was my hero; his simple, powerful idea excited me sufficiently to make studying science a joy rather …

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Is obesity a key factor in Covid-19 deaths?

What we know about Covid-19 increases daily. But what we don’t remains largely out of sight in the submerged part of this very menacing iceberg that keeps policy-makers awake at night. What we do know we must use wisely applying it where we can to save lives. In January as they were getting to grips with the infection China identified many of the risk factors for poorer outcomes and these have since been confirmed in other countries. Being older is …

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Changing Behaviour in a time of plague. Be careful what you wish for…

When I discovered last week that my favourite Chinese restaurant was open for take-aways and delivering locally, I telephoned but found I was out of range so I ordered to collect. Bad boy, my wife admonished, I was making an unnecessary and selfish journey and this was not allowed. Suitably censured I agreed to stay home and to satisfy my desire for spicy food I located at the back of a cupboard an out-of-date Vesta curry bought years ago possibly …

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Addiction in a time of crisis…

Mental health is suffering as we remain in lockdown. Those with poor mental health coupled with an alcohol/drug addiction seem to have worsened over recent weeks manifest in more and more bizarre and risky behaviours and an increased need for; antidepressants, anti-psychotics and anxiolytics. It’s time to rethink how we deal with addiction associated with poor mental health because we might not be getting it right. Addiction NI, the local charity that does what it says on the tin, last …

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Does Smoking Prevent Covid-19 or is it a myth?

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic…… We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. JF Kennedy 1962 There are many myths emerging as we struggle with the SARS-CoV2 virus pandemic. President Trump again covers himself in glory with his latest; suggesting intravenous disinfectant as a treatment option. Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D are all appearing as disease preventors but there is little evidence …

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Lost Lives Reminds us we can’t Forget…

For Terry Maguire, a recent BBC programme, Lost Lives, featuring deaths in the Troubles, triggered a flashback on his way to work. This caused him to reflect on an incident he witnessed as a schoolboy in Derry in 1972, making him reassess his long-held view that the Troubles had no personal impact. As I walked to work in darkness one morning in 2020, work tasks and concerns swirled unhelpfully in my half-awakened mind. When I reached the entrance of the …

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Medical myths in a time of Covid-19…

One aspect of the Covid19 pandemic is the steep rise in associated myths.    This is not unusual.  In time of crisis we all cling to what we believe and we believe new things more easily;  these certainties give us security and hope.   Indeed, government in its covid19 messaging is itself controlling our behaviour in what I believe to be a more or less responsible manner.    Scaring us into staying home and normalising this behaviour is key to their public health …

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Dispatches from the front-lines of the Coronavirus panic…

On TV News last week we learned that N. Ireland had its first victim of the new plague that is Covid-19.  This novel coronavirus that started off life in a pangolin sold as an exotic food from a fish-market in Wuhan, China, had finally reached these shores on a Thursday night. I don’t think the media fully appreciate the sheer panic they unleased in a public, in its infinite ignorance, already very worried indeed. A local radio host dedicated his …

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The rise and rise (and fall?) of CBD oil…

Over the thirty-five years of my career it has been a cherished wish that the public generally, and pharmacy colleagues specifically, would eventually become enlightened to, if not dependent on, the validity and superiority of science in decision making particularly in the choice of medicinal treatments we use.  Sadly, that cherished wish remains unfulfilled and was painfully dashed when I attended the UK Pharmacy Show at the NEC Birmingham at the end of last year. Twenty-three stands featured CBD oil …

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