Pharmacy is a science which may be defined as the collection, preparation, and com-pounding of medicinal substances, and its history is part of the history of medicine.

Early Origins.

There were compounders of medicine in Babylorua and the word pasisu, which described a compounder of ointments and cosmetics, is equal to our word pharmacist. The latter word derives from the Greek pharmakon, a drug or poison, and is probably Egyptian in origin.

Although magic played a great part in the treatment of disease in early times, a knowledge of the values of many drugs was gradually accumulated, and the later Assyrians (1100 to 600 s.c.) became skilful in the preparation of medicines.

Dioscorides, who lived in Greece in the first century A.D., described 500 medicinal plants as well as 90 earths and metals and drugs of animal origin. Many of these were still included in the pharmacopaeias of the years 1900-10. His treatise on Materia Medica was the authority for nearly fifteen centuries.

The ancient Romans were slower than the Greeks in establishing medicine as a rational science and often resorted to magical rites when their few remedies failed. So the dis-tinction between drug sellers and poisoners and sorcerers gradually blurred, and the whole pharmacopoloi gained sinister reputations.

By about 160 n.n. the well-known classical physician, Galen, had raised the status both of pharmacy and of medicine, and his name is remembered in the term ‘galenical’ which is still used for such preparations as infusions, tinctures, and decoctions.

In mediaeval England, the compounding of medicines was the job of the apothecary who supplied the remedies prescribed by the physician.

Later, the apothecaries began to do their own prescribing and called in the aid of the chemists who prepared mineral compounds chiefly for medicinal use. Early in the eighteenth century they joined with the dealers in herbs, known as druggists, and the title ‘chemist and druggist' came into being.

Modern Pharmacy.

Today, under the provisions of the Pharmacy Act of 1954, of Great Britain all pharmacists engaged in the dispensing of medicines for the public have to be registered by the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain which was founded in 1841. Every registered pharmacist is a member; to be registered a person must have passed the Pharmaceutical Society's examination or an equivalent university one.

Members must observe the rules of professional conduct; offenders can be struck off the register. The Society keeps a register of all chemists' shops in the country and provides for their inspec-tion. Similar Societies exist in most countries of the world.

Pharmacopoeias and Formularies

Information on the substances that have been found useful in curing diseases and on the best methods of preparing and combining them has always been much sought after.

This information has been collected and published in books from earliest times by many authorities. Early pharmacopoeias were essentially lists of medicinal substances and preparations, with information as to the source, nature and properties of the substances and directions for making the preparations.

Modern pharma-copoeias, in contrast to this, concentrate principally on the identity, quality, and purity of the drugs. In Great Britain today, three such books are of outstanding importance.

The British Pharmacopoeia is an official book issued by the General Medical Council under the authority of the Medical Act. New editions are produced every five years. The British National Formulary is published jointly by the British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. The Formulary contains a very large selection of preparations in use in medicine today and is widely used by doctors for prescribing.

New editions are produced every two or three years. The British Pharmaceutical Codex may be said to be complementary to the other two books. It contains nearly all the substances and preparations described in them and a great many others besides.

For all these, standards are provided, and information is also given on the actions and uses of the medicaments. It is revised every five years.

Source : Family Physician

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