Origin and Development of Pharmacy

Origin and Development of Pharmacy

Pharmacy (from the Greek 'pharmakon' = drug) is the health profession that links the health sciences with the chemical sciences, and it is charged with ensuring the safe and effective use of medication.


It was in the 9th century in the civilized world around Baghdad that the profession of pharmacy started acquiring shape. It slowly spread to Europe as alchemy and finally developed into chemistry. The artisans of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China carried out the first known chemical process. However, in the 19th century, it completely sprouted out from medicine and started developing as a separate profession. This happened only when the pharmacist's role as a compounder of medicines was identified and differentiated from the physician whose role was accepted as the therapist. The practice in those times was restricted to compounding, dispensing medication, and manufacturing medicaments in bulk lots, not for general sale. The medicament commonly produced was simple elixirs, spirits, and powders in contrast to the complex pharmaceutical remedies of the present era. 

1. Before the Dawn of History: In the earliest times, medicine was based on magic and religion. Sumerians living around 4,000 BC believed that demons were the cause of illness. In many cultures, physicians were priests and sometimes considered gods.

2. Pharmacy in Ancient Babylonia: The earliest known record of the art of apothecary  (the forerunner of the pharmacist) is in Mesopotamia at about 2600 B.C. Babylonian healing practitioners combined the responsibilities of priest, physician, and pharmacist.

3. Pharmacy in Ancient China: In ancient China (2000 B.C.) legend tells that Emperor  Shen Nung investigated the medical properties of hundreds of herbs. He recorded  365 native herbal drugs in the first pen T'sao. (Book called "The Great Herbal") 

4. Days of the Papyrus Ebers: One of the earliest known records written around  1500 B.C. was the Ebers Papyrus named by George Ebers. It contains 800  prescriptions using 700 drugs, of particular note in the papyrus is the inclusion of quantities of substances, which were largely missing from Babylonian clay tablets.  Many modern dosage forms are also referred to in the Ebers Papyrus as gargles,  inhalations, and suppositories.

5. Greeks period: Around 600 B.C. the Greeks integrated science into mythological thinking. They began thinking logically about disease rather than believing spiritual explanations. The Romans conquered the Greeks and the medical and pharmaceutical cultures merged, it is known as the Greco-Roman era. 

* Charaka and Sushruta, an Indian pharmacist and physician, wrote Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, respectively.

6. Roman period: Pharmacopoeia: Maker of remedies.  Pharmacotritae: Drug Grinders, Unguentarii: Makers of ointments.  Pigmentarii: Maker of cosmetics, Pharmacopolae: Seller of drugs. 

7. Arabian period: Major advances in this era are Formularies: The continuation of documentation of drug information. They also had different drug forms which are now used: Syrups, Conserves, Confections, and juleps. 

8. Empiric Era: pharmacopeias were used to protect public health. Roots, Bark, Herbs  Flowers, etc. were used and controlled by the government. They questioned the toxicological effects on the human body. Created interest in testing drugs and how they affected the body. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin started the first hospital. 

9. Pharmacy today and tomorrow: Pharmacy, with its heritage of 50 centuries of service to mankind, has become recognized as a great profession. 

• Prescription is a written paper for a drug product by a licensed prescriber to treat a patient. 

• Prescriptions filled increased by 27% while the number of pharmacists increased by 15%. 

• Pharmacology: The study of drugs (from the Greek pharmakon means drug).

• Pharmacognosy: The study of physical, chemical, biochemical, and biological properties of drugs as well as drugs from natural sources. 

• Pharmacopoeia: An official listing of drugs and issues related to their use. 

• Pharmaceutical: a study of or about drugs; also, a drug product. 

• Panacea: A cure-all (from the Greek panakeia). 

• Materia Medica: A dictionary of medicinal plants. 

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