A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup

In addition to her work and tutoring at the hospital. Agatha received private tuition from a commercial pharmacist in Torquay, a Mr P. As part of her instruction, one day Mr P. showed her the correct way to make suppositories, a tricky task that required some skill. He melted cocia butter and added the drug, then demonstrated the precise moment to turn the suppositories out of the mould, box them up an label them professionally as "one in one hundred" (one part drug per hundred in total). However, Christie was convinced that the pharmacist had made a mistake and added a dose of "one in ten" to the suppositories, ten times the required dose and potentially dangerous. She surreptitiously checked his calculations and confirmed the error. Unable to confront the pharmacist with his mistake, and frightened of the consequences of dispensing the dangerous medicine, she pretended to trip and sent the suppositories crashing up to the floor, where she trod on them firmly. After she had apologised profusely and cleared up the mess, a fresh batch was made, but this time at the correct dilution.

 

Ooooh, I think I´m going to love this book. As it turns out the pharmacist had problems with the metric systems, which he has used for his calculations.

 

At my work we have to make capsules with potentially dangerous active ingredients for children every once in a while. Every calculation gets double checked by at least two people, because as Paracelsus has said:

 

"Alle Dinge sind Gift, und nichts ist ohne Gift, allein die Dosis machts, daß ein Ding kein Gift sei" - "Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy." (Harkup mentiones the qoute on page 16. A book about poisons has to have the Paracelsus saying in it, without it it feels incomplete).

 

And did anyone of you ever make suppositories? It´s perfectly okay to make them with the newly developed fats, but cocoa butter is a pain in the ass to work with. It´s possible that the pharmacist was mentally preparing himself to get the suppositories out of the mould, seeing that this is a nearly impossible task. It´s not an excuse for shoddy calculations, though.