Pharm-Okwuchukwu H.A Njike (MPSN)
Email: [email protected]
In this column, I want to expose you to a world of pharmacy. To understand the field of science called pharmacy, I will like to reflect on the early traditional means of treatment of ailments. I will also like to expose you to a world of Pharmacy so that those who are interested can take career in it.
EVOLUTION OF PHARMACY
In early days before Christ (BC) diseases and sufferings existed. Just like eating of food was known to quench hunger, early people also realized that applying one thing or the other can relieve them of pains, suffering or diseases.
The initial understanding was that diseases were inflicted by gods as a sign of punishment for wrongs doing. The people known to have that power to eliminate the evil impact of diseases and restoration of life were regarded as holding spiritual powers. They were seen as those having ability to intercede between the spirit world and the physical world using some mixtures or things – drugs. They were called Mediators. Example of such people were the priests, witches, wizards, shamans, native doctors, holy persons and soothsayers.
Because the belief then was that diseases and suffering came from demonic or spiritual attack, the application of substance (drugs) mostly from plants and animals to drive away the disease brought fame to them as they were believed to drive away demons.
With the experience gathered from the use of these substances on different patients, it became obvious that diseases were not actually caused by evil forces and recovery was due to the substances used rather than gods. That was how the modern treatment of diseases with substances which was later known as drugs was discovered.
To expand on this experience, many plants and animal products were tried on treating different diseases. In the course of trial, drugs were used based on their sources – symbols and astrological signs. For example sword, is a symbol of power and strength. As a result iron was used in treatment of weakness and anaemia.
The consequence of these trials led to the publication of collections of numerous medicinal plants and plant mixtures for, medical purposes called “The Pen Tsao” in China around 2700 BC. They also introduced “Doctrine of Signature” which was based on “Like dissolves Like” and that encouraged much of medicines from animal Origin in the drug collection book known as “Chinese Pharmacopoeia.
In Egypt, around 1550 BC, Ebers Papyrus was written and contained about 800 prescriptions. It is interesting to note that these prescriptions contain active ingredients and vehicles through which the drugs were prepared. Such vehicles included animal fats for ointments and water, milk, wine, beer, honey for liquid medicines.
It is worthy of note that due to the use of different local preparations they were able to detect drugs that would be used in healing of wounds, increase in strength etc. They also found out that some of the drugs could be toxic hence they smeared such drugs on the arrow tips to increase their effectiveness in killing. This poisonous effects of drugs were later developed into the science of toxicology.
As in other parts of the world, the users of drugs for treatment of diseases in Europe and South America found that drug ingredients in form of plants, herbs, animals and minerals when blended gave out foul – smelling and unpleasant flavored concoctions. The attempt to present a better formulation that would give stability, improve in taste, smells and efficacy gave birth to what science called “PHARMACY.”
DEFINITION OF DRUG AND EXPERTS ASSOCIATED WITH IT.
Julie, went to her Doctor with a case of itching due to previous Chloroquine treatment she took, when she had malaria. She also told her Doctor that she wanted her skin to look “Fresh.” Her doctor prescribed two different lotions A and B for her. A was to be applied to the itching site and B was to be used to make the skin look fresh.
Later, Julie was surprise to hear that A was the only drug given to her and B used to beautify her skin was called Cosmetics. She went to a Pharmacist to ask the question, “what is Drug?”.
There are different definitions to what a drug is. However, whichever ways one looks at it, it acts on the body- internally (systemic) or externally (Local).
Drug is from a Greek word “Pharmakon” which stands for medicine, poison.
In modern science drug includes any substance of vegetable, animal or mineral origin or any preparation or admixture thereof, which is used for internal or external application to the human or animal body in the treatment or prevention of diseases. It can also be presented from World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition to include any substance which when taken into the body modifies one or more of its functions or a substance used in diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease in man or animal. It also incorporates the vehicle, colouring or sweeting agent used as excipients (additional ingredients). These excipient may be clinically important as lactose, gluten, incorporated dye and added sodium may be harmful at times.
From the definition above, it is clear that the main aim of using drugs is to affect the existing body function. The way this is done varies. It may be:
1. To establish when this body function is not doing well- this can be called Diagnosis.
2. To prevent the existing body function from abnormal functioning, this can be regarded as Prevention or Prophylaxis
3. To ensure that the abnormal body function is corrected in order to start doing well again. This is called treatment.
(Continued next week)