150 years of American Pharmacy: Protection against the 'ignorant and incompetent'

June 4, 2007

The modern era of pharmacy regulation really dates to the formation of the Rhode Island Board of Pharmacy in 1870.

Not surprisingly, pharmacists were greatly concerned with the intrusion of state and local governments into the pharmacy profession and the potential overlap of pharmacy regulations. The cities of Baltimore and New York were quick to introduce pharmacy regulation and attempt to establish boards of pharmacy. And the states of New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, and Illinois were not far behind. Still, as Druggists' Circular, the antecedent of Drug Topics, argued in January 1872, "it is right that the public be protected against the ignorant and incompetent."

In a discussion of a proposed New York board of pharmacy law, Druggists' Circular offered its support for the bill and noted some general principles about the board of pharmacy movement. In the bill, Druggists' Circular hoped, "exorbitant fees should be abolished," the magazine insisted, though recognizing that it was not inappropriate to "make pharmaceutical education compulsory." In an age when many pharmacists still grew up in drugstores and apprenticed to learn the trade, some big changes were clearly afoot.

The biggest question was whether pharmacists could come together to support the development of pharmacy boards. In New York, "Steps have been taken to unite all pharmaceutical interests," Druggists' Circular remarked, "so that a simple serviceable law shall be placed before the legislature." In New York, however, uniting disparate groups has never been an easy process. It would take another 12 years for the Empire State to finally create its own board of pharmacy.

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/.