A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about the history of the RX symbol and it inspired me to do a little more digging into the history of pharmacy. Pharmacy is never an industry I thought I would find myself in, but I sit here today with two years of Pharmacy recruiting, and a little over a month of pharmacy recruiting marketing under my belt, and I truly enjoy this industry. Healthcare and pharmacy are two of the oldest industries and have super cool beginnings. Hop in the DeLorean and buckle your seatbelts because we’re going back in time!
Pharmacy itself dates as far back as 2,000 BC back with the Sumerians. They would etch prescribed medications onto tablets (the stone kind, not the digital kind), and we still have some of those preserved today. The oldest surviving prescription is from 2,400 BC from the city of Nippur, and yes, it’s just as hard to read as today’s prescriptions. Some things will just never change! Unfortunately, because these tablets weren’t intentionally saved, they were accidentally buried and found by archaeologists later, there really is not a clear way of knowing if the medicinal practices used back then influenced modern medicine today. Obviously, one thing is for sure, pharmacists and doctor’s write down the medication to give to patients, 4,000 years later and it’s still the best system!
Drug stores aren’t anything new either! The first “drug stores” were in Baghdad around 750AD, they moved to Europe soon after. Before drug stores, pharmacy was mostly practiced by monks in their monasteries. Then during the revolutionary war, they started popping up in America. According to The Drugstore Museum website, it is highly contested as to which pharmacy is the FIRST pharmacy in America. The first Drug Store owned and operated by a licensed pharmacist was opened in New Orleans in 1823, but there were plenty of stores that sold medicine with the offer of medical treatment available before then.
I promised this would be brief, so I will stop here, but if you are interested in more history of pharmacy, Coyne College has a wonderful infographic that highlights the entire timeline of Pharmacy from 2000 BC until 2015 and The History of Information has a really interesting article about the largest surviving medical works from Mesopotamia.