History of Pharmacy

Overview

Pharmacy is defined as the art and science involved with the standardization and preparation of drugs. Pharmacy includes the cultivation of plants utilized as drugs, the production of synthetic chemical compounds that have medicinal value, and analysis of agents that also have medicinal value. Pharmacists are saddled with preparing the drugs in the form of capsules, tablets, or solutions for injections. Hence, pharmacy is a study that has been with humanity from the beginning of time. 

Pharmacy in Prehistory

Prehistoric records showed the use of plants with medicinal value, so it is an aspect of science that has been with humans for a long time. Good examples were herbs in the Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq alongside the areca nut found in the Spirit Cave from north Thailand. 

It is believed that humans learned about the strategies of pharmacy because of observing animals and birds making use of leaves, mud, cool water, and even dirt as soothing substances. 

Pharmacy in Antiquity

The cuneiform tablets from the Sumerian civilization had descriptions regarding medicine. The same thing was seen with ancient Egyptians who had extensive pharmacy knowledge and had everything recorded on materials made from papyrus. 

An excellent example of this was the Ebers Papyrus made around 1550 BC which has almost 700 drugs derived mainly from plants. Another example is the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which was brought to light in the 16th century. Antiquity is full of records of ancient civilizations having pharmacy records in several regions.  

Pharmacy in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages had places like Greece, the Middle East, Japan, India, and China dominating the field of pharmacy. The first pharmacies as we know them were first established in Baghdad in 754 during the Abbasid Caliphate times during the time of the Islamic Golden Age. It was in the 9th century that states started regulating pharmacies. 

A similar trend was observed in Europe, with places like Italy, France, and Spain having their drug stores and new regulations governing how pharmacy is done. The Republic of Venice became the first authority to institute modern health policies. 

Pharmacy from the 19th Century till Date 

The industrialization of the pharmaceutical industry can be said to be on the increase starting from the 1800s, and that was due to the developments made in the technology sector. By the end of the 19th century, dye manufacturers in Germany had made several breakthroughs with the purification of separate organic compounds using tar and several substances. In addition to these, they had also come up with the fundamentals of organic chemical synthesis. 

In 1869, chloral hydrate was brought to the fore as a sedative and a sleeping aid. Then in 1847, chloroform was first utilized as an anesthetic in operations. The industrialization would continue with the usage of derivatives of phenothiazines used as antiseptics, malaria drugs, and treat worm infections. 

There was a major leap in the pharmacy field with the formation of the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1852 in the United States. Its main objective was to promote and advance the pharmacists’ role and position in medical care. This is in addition to spreading information concerning resources and tools useful for pharmacists and how they contribute to patients’ care. 

There would be further progress in the 20th century when Charles Best and Frederick Banting made use of dogs to demonstrate that a hormone called insulin was able to reduce the level of glucose in the blood. This development would eventually lead to the development of insulin which is now used by millions of people suffering from diabetes. Later, more significant discoveries would be made with Alexander Fleming coming up with penicillin, which is the first antibiotic. He was able to do this after observing how a fungus was able to destroy bacteria. 

Pharmacy Today 

Pharmacy in the 21st century has advanced so much so that cures have been developed for many diseases, and there has been significant progress relating to diseases like cancer, muscular dystrophy, and a host of genetic diseases. 

There are now agents known as designer drugs that are developed to meet the patient’s specific needs right down to the cellular and genetic level. Pharmacists are becoming increasingly important in a world beset with many medical challenges and that is not going to change anytime soon. The pharmacy has truly come a long way, from the prehistoric era to the days of customized designer drugs, vaccines, and therapeutic agents.  

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