150 Years of American Pharmacy: The diabetic patent's reliance on the pharmacist

March 5, 2007

Editor's note: Throughout 2007, this column, which takes a look at some of the most important moments in the history of pharmacy, will appear in each issue as part of our sesquicentennial celebration. Tied with this column is a pharmacy history contest, which we are urging all readers to participate in. Monthly questions based on this column, will be posted on the Drug Topics anniversary microsite. Contestants are eligible to win a Visa gift card of $250. For details about the contest, go to www.drugtopics.com.

Editor's note: Throughout 2007, this column, which takes a look at some of the most important moments in the history of pharmacy, will appear in each issue as part of our sesquicentennial celebration. Tied with this column is a pharmacy history contest, which we are urging all readers to participate in. Monthly questions based on this column, will be posted on the Drug Topics anniversary microsite. Contestants are eligible to win a Visa gift card of $250. For details about the contest, go to http://www.drugtopics.com/150anniversary.

Historians trace the first mention of diabetes to around 3500 B.C., but until relatively recently little has been known about how to test for and treat the disease. Beginning in the late 19th century that began to change as physicians and researchers paid renewed attention to the disease. Keeping pace, Druggists Circular (which later merged with Drug Topics) started reporting on a number of new research directions for treatment of the disease, often reprinting articles found in various medical journals.

In 1880, for example, the magazine ran a series of articles on various aspects of diabetes treatment. In January, the magazine also reprinted a "simple perfected test for Diabetic sugar," from the Louisville Medical News, which involved a solution of copper sulfate and glycerine. The author suggested that the "copper crystals be thoroughly tricerated with the glycerine in a mortar and kept in a clean glass-stoppered bottle." In April, a doctor reported that he successfully treated a patient with "nitrate of uranium" and an "appropriate diet," while another noted the beneficial effects of an unrestricted diet of maple sugar. Conversely, the condition worsened for a third patient treated with salts of ammonia. Like many of the treatments meted out by pharmacists and physicians at that time, success was a matter of trial and error and mostly anecdotal.