Bex (compound analgesic)

Bex was a strong compound analgesic which was popular in Australia for much of the twentieth century. It came in the form of APC (aspirinphenacetincaffeine) tablets or powder, containing 42% aspirin, 42% phenacetin, plus caffeine.[1]

Bex was a product of Beckers Pty Ltd., originally based at Pym Street, Dudley Park, South Australia,[2] but which relocated to Sydney in the 1960s.[3] It was advertised with the phrase, "Stressful Day? What you need is a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down".[4] Bex (and other APC products such as Vincent's) powders were particularly seen as the housewife's drug of choice in the 1950s and 1960s. However, it became recognised that these medications were addictive, and Dr. Priscilla Kincaid-Smith found that the large doses of phenacetin ingested by habitual users were responsible for widespread kidney disease.[4][5] The phenacetin was removed from Bex in 1975.[6] Bex has also been linked to kidney cancer.[7]

A Cup of Tea, a Bex and a Good Lie Down was a comedy revue that opened at Sydney's Phillip Street Theatre on 18 September 1965.[8][9] It was the longest running show at the Theatre in 1966 and was performed over 250 times during its extended run.[10] The cast included John Ewart,[8] Gloria Dawn,[11] Ruth Cracknell and Reg Livermore.[12][13] The play was written by John McKellar.[14]

The expression "A cup of tea, a Bex, and a good lie down" had gained currency through much of Australia in the post-World War II period when aspirin became readily available. McKellar's play reinforced the phrase "and the title quickly became a common Australian saying".[14] It was often abbreviated to "go and take a Bex", and used in a pejorative sense to indicate to an over-eager person that they should take a more relaxed attitude to a situation. As such, it has currency in bar room discussions, particularly where someone has become animated in expressing a point of view that is contrary to the general view of the group. In September 2011 former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, told the media, "I just think it would be a good thing if everyone seriously had a cup of tea and a Bex and a long lie down, OK?" over reports of his possible challenge to his leader, the incumbent Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.[15]

See also


  1. "Packet of Bex Powders". Powerhouse Museum, Australia. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  2. "Australian experience of analgesia in the mid 20th century". South Australian Medical Heritage Society Inc. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  3. "Beckers Pty Ltd". The Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  4. Morrow, Claire (1 October 2009). "The dangers of self-medicating: mother's little helpers don't always have a desirable effect, warns Claire Morrow. (Feel Life: Health)". Investigate. Howling at the Moon Publishing Ltd. 9 (105): 76(2). ISSN 1832-2794. Stressful Day? What you need is a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down. So the advertising went, in the days of powders. When I worked in aged care it was not uncommon to come across an elderl ....
  5. "Bex Powders". School of Medical Sciences UNSW. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  6. "Curbs on Analgesics Likely". The Canberra Times. John Fairfax Ltd. 20 June 1975. p. 3. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  7. Dunlevy, Sue (29 August 2014). "Cancer Council NSW: Bex powder killed more than pain". News Corp Australian Network. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  8. "Prompt – Phillip Street Theatre" (PDF). National Library of Australia. February 2012. p. 7. Retrieved 21 November 2012. Commencing 18 September. A Cup of Tea, a Bex and a Good Lie Down. Starring: Gloria Dawn, John Ewart, Reginald Livermore, Brigid Lenihan, Kevan Johnston, Judith Roberts, Donald MacDonald, Barbara Wyndon. 7 programs.
  9. "Social Roundabout". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 29 September 1965. p. 11. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  10. "A Cup of Tea, a Bex and a Good Lie Down". Retrieved 21 November 2012. There are six programmes for this production in the Wolanski file with no cast differences. The programmes contain brief biographies and photos of the cast. Programmes at the National Library of Australia indicate that this production ran well into 1966 and was performed over 250 times during its extended season.
  11. Newton, Gloria (8 March 1967). "Gloria Dawns Anew". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. p. 2. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  12. Newton, Gloria (18 October 1967). "Three children, a husband, and a revue to rehearse". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. p. 12. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  13. Musgrove, Nan (12 October 1966). "A Fun Show for all the Family". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. p. 19. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  14. Morgan, Clare (15 September 2010). "Comedy Writer McKellar, 80, Dies". The Age. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  15. Norington, Brad (23 September 2011). "Have a Bex and lie down, Kevin Rudd tells those who think he's going to challenge Julia Gillard". The Australian. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
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