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Happy National Pharmacist Day!!!

--Carl Sagan

Today we celebrate National Pharmacist Day!!

Pharmacy is the clinical health science that links medical science with chemistry. As a nod to the modern pharmacy, I'll be going over a few fun facts about the pharmaceutical industry to give you an idea of how we got here.

The history of pharmacy goes hand-in-hand with the history of medicine. There is, however, the importance of distinguishing between the two. Before pharmacists, some apothecaries worked to aid patients alongside physicians and priests. These apothecaries were chemists that would mix and sell their medicines. Their storefronts sold drugs that catered to others who had their medical practices. Mostly, these practitioners were surgeons, but they also provided treatment to ill customers who walked in from the streets. An apothecary was a well-established profession by the seventeenth century, but the use of medicine predates prehistoric times. Here's a timeline that will inform you of the growth and advancement in medicine and practices.

Prehistoric Pharmacy

  • Studies show that prehistoric people learned instinct, healing methods, and pharmaceutical techniques. He would also learn different forms of healing by simply watching and monitoring other lifeforms. Soothing agents were invented in these prehistoric times using dirt, mud, or leaves combined with water.

Antiquity and Pharmacy

  • In Ancient Egypt 1550 BC, it was recorded that approximately 800 prescriptions were used and were composed of 700 different drugs, which were made up of mostly plants.

  • Clay tablets were used to record pharmaceutical texts by Mesopotamians. Some formulas, recipes, and instructions on using multiple herbs were scribed onto these tablets.

  • Babylon is said to have the easiest known practice of running an apothecary. Priests or physicians were always present at an apothecary to address the needs of patients.

  • During the Han Dynasty in China, the manual of Materia Medica was written. It included lists of ailments and specific prescriptions for each one. This manuscript was titled "Recipes for 52 Ailments".

  • Indian Traditional Medicine dates to the third or fourth century AD.

  • In Japan, any role similar to modern pharmacists was revered and highly respected. Japan gave this hierarchy of pharmacists and their assistants a higher status than anyone else in health-related fields. Pharmacists were ranked above the two personal physicians of the Emperor in the Imperial Household.

Middle Age Pharmacy

  • In 754 Bagdad, the first pharmacies/drug stores were established. These pharmacies became state-regulated by the ninth century.

  • In the Middle East, advancement in botany and chemistry helped develop pharmacology. This was a push to use chemical compounds for medical purposes. Many manuscripts were written to provide readers with instructions on preparing more complex drugs for general use.

  • By the 12th century, Europe began to develop pharmacy-like shops. In 1240, a decree was issued that physicians and apothecary professions were separated. The oldest continuously run pharmacy is the Town Hall Pharmacy, located in Estonia. It was established in at least 1422 and is still open and operating on its original premises. The first pharmacy in Europe was established in 1221 in Florence, Italy. This location is now a perfume museum. The first official and one of the largest pharmacopeias globally originated in Florence. All pharmacies would eventually use this literature to guide caring for the sick.

  • The Republic of Venice was the first state that required pharmacies to inform the public what drugs were composed of.

Industrialization Pharmacy

  • Pharmaceutical drugs became more sophisticated in the 1800s.

  • The first licensed pharmacist set up shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans and became America's first licensed pharmacist in the early 1800s. Before then, you did not need a license to become a pharmacist.

  • In 1852, the United States formed the American Pharmaceutical Association. Advancing pharmacists' roles in patients' care was this organization's primary purpose. The APhA also provided a way to further career development. The organization gave information about tools and resources while raising awareness of pharmacist roles.

  • APhA standardized the name "pharmacist" for all pharmaceutical practitioners.

  • By late 1880, German Dye manufacturers perfected a way to purify organic compounds of drugs for general use.

  • In May 1886, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia, created the syrup for Coca-Cola.

  • Early 1900 brought the invention of sleep aids, sedatives, and antiseptic drugs. The discovery of these newfound drugs lead to the "psychopharmacological revolution". This era introduced various psychiatric drugs.

  • Until the 1950s, pharmacists prescribed, made, and dispensed medicines and provided patient counseling.

  • In 1951 Durham-Humphrey Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 changed the role of pharmacists. Until then, pharmacists could prescribe and dispense any medication except narcotics. This amendment restricted pharmacists from dispensing medications only by prescription. As a result, a pharmacist could only recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medications, issue drugs, and inform patients how to use them safely.

  • In the 1980s, a movement toward clinical pharmacy began to expand the role of pharmacists

  • By 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization gave pharmacists the ability to, once again, counsel patients on prescription drugs as well as OTC medications. The clinical pharmacy movement expanded the pharmacist's role in the community pharmacy to include administering vaccines, counseling patients, and other patient care services. Pharmacists now can focus on disease and chronic condition management, medication management, health and wellness, and other services that help improve patients' quality of life.

One last FYI: Benjamin Franklin was also a pharmacist, and the well-known British Novelist Agatha Christie was a pharmacy technician!!!

Since the beginning of time, humans have used medicine in different forms to cure illnesses. The scope of pharmacy practice includes more traditional roles like compounding and dispensing medications. It also includes more modern services related to health care. These include clinical services, reviewing medications for safety, and providing drug information. Pharmacists are the experts on drug therapy and are the primary health professionals who optimize the use of drugs for the benefit of the patients. Their profession has come a long way, and without fail, they continue to provide the best care possible. Today, we celebrate them and all they do.

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