Back in the non-summer of 2010, I was in need of a bit of instant pain relief. Alas, the ‘easy-to-swallow, fast-acting gel capsules I was given weren’t all they were cracked up to be…Customer Relations Department Superdrug Stores plc 118 Beddington Lane
Dear Customer Relations,
Superdrug Ibuprofen 200mg Liquid Capsules
Twenty years ago, a very big horse ran up my back at full gallop.
My wife and I had been riding in the forests of the Morvan National Park in France – and very nice it was too. Nice that is until our mounts were spooked by a snake and we were both thrown out of our saddles. The big problem for me was that I was riding in the front. As a result, milliseconds after the pain of hitting the rocky ground at high speed, my wife’s horse ran straight over me at a velocity Red Rum would have been proud of. Unfortunately, one of its thundering hind hooves struck me squarely on my upper back, just inside my right shoulder blade. After that, the pain of the fall seemed utterly insignificant.
For some time afterwards, my Quasimodo impersonation was flawless. My hump was the size of a small French village and my right arm hung limp and useless at my side. I wouldn’t have been able to stand or lie straight if you had run over me with a steamroller. Gradually though, the pain and the swelling subsided, I eventually resumed an upright stance and life returned to normal.
Nonetheless, to this day, there is an area of damaged tissue in my shoulder – roughly the size of a horses hoof. Once in a while, it seems to flare up for no apparent reason and I develop an acute neuritis, causing excruciating referred pain down my arm and pins and needles in my right hand.
So, to finally get to the point of my letter, this is exactly what happened a few weeks ago.
It was the weekend and I was unable to see my GP straight away so you can imagine my relief when my wife handed me a box of Superdrug 200mg Ibuprofen Liquid Capsules. Just the job I thought. A painkiller and an anti-inflammatory. Perfect. What’s more, they were fast-acting and (best of all) “easy-to-swallow”!
At least that’s what it said on the box.
Easy to swallow? I suspect that it would have been easier to swallow the horse!
I know the capsules aren’t exactly tiny but I have certainly swallowed bigger tablets without difficulty (indeed, the 400mg ibuprofen tablets that I was eventually prescribed were much bigger than your capsules and looked like shocking-pink flying saucers but they slid down my throat like a good oyster).
No, size isn’t the issue, nor, I suspect, is the egg shape of the capsule. It is the gel of which the capsule is made that is the problem. It seems to react with saliva to form a highly efficient adhesive which firmly glues the capsule to the throat, just below the point where you can cough it back up again. No amount of drinking will dislodge the little blighter. The only way to get the capsule down far enough to do the ‘fast-acting’ bit is to eat – without chewing excessively so there are lots of ‘bits’ to dislodge the glued-on capsule. Salted peanuts work very well, I eventually discovered.
This all seemed like an awful lot of trouble to swallow an “easy-to-swallow” capsule. In fact, bearing in mind its shape, texture and general squishiness, it occurred to me that it may actually be a great deal easier to introduce the capsule into the gastro-intestinal tract from completely the opposite end! A quick dab of Vaseline and hey presto!
So before I buy a pair of rubber gloves, I thought I’d ask: Would they be just as effective as a fast-acting, “easy-to-shove-up-your-bum” suppository?
A few days later, I received the following standard letter back from Superdrug:
It was time for a second salvo:8th August 2010 Miss S Berry Customer Relations Department Superdrug Stores plc 118 Beddington Lane
Dear Miss Berry,
Thank you for your letter dated 22nd June. It was good of you to address it to me personally. Of course, I would have preferred that you had also taken the trouble write me a personal letter to go with the personal salutation. After all, I had taken the trouble to tell you all about my Quasimodo impersonation and to introduce a note of levity into my otherwise serious complaint.
Your disappointingly standard text informs me that my comments have been passed to your technical and buying departments. I was rather hoping that my letter may have been passed to your R&D department – the thought of your boffins experimenting with Vaseline and rubber gloves was rather entertaining. However, I now realise that this is because you do not in fact manufacture the offending capsules but simply buy them in like all your other products.
Perhaps you would be good enough to let me have the details of the manufacturer in this instance. I am sure that they will be concerned to hear that their capsules adhere so efficiently to the oesophagus. After all, whilst choking to death is probably a very effective method of pain relief in the long run, it is unlikely to be anything like as effective in PR terms.
Who knows, they may even become rather excited at the prospect of developing a highly effective and ‘easy-to-insert’ anti-inflammatory suppository.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a second reply.
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