Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/284

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280
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

governmental officials; or, in the case of England, by a board especially authorized by the government. One of the peculiarities of Anglo-Saxon civilization is the performance by volunteer bodies under sanction of law of functions which are really governmental. Witness the Brethren of the Trinity, who control and manage the lighthouses of England; witness, also, the United States Pharmacopœial Convention, an incorporated society, which controls the United States Pharmacopœia. Little by little, now in customs regulations, now in pure food bills, now in this, now in that form, without any definite prearranged specific legislation, the United States Pharmacopœia has come to have the force of law in the United States. In the Latin countries the result of such a method would probably be bad; in the Anglo-Saxon lands with the habit of submission of the individual to the majority, the present method has been successful, and probably more successful than direct governmental rule would have been. The United States Pharmacopœia scientifically and practically ranks with any in the world, and obedience to its mandates in pharmacy and in medicine is universal.

The first attempt to make a pharmacopœia in the United States was in 1820; the result was not fortunate, but in 1830 a second edition was prepared which commanded the respect of the profession and was generally accepted. Before this period, if a doctor wrote for a tincture he would get it in one strength in Philadelphia, another strength in New York; or, perchance, the apothecary on the right side of Broadway would give him one strength of preparation, whilst his rival on the other side of the street would put up an entirely different article. What was formerly nationally true is now true internationally. A prescription written in New York for a certain much used poisonous remedy would be put up three times the desired strength in Montreal, where the British Pharmacopœia is in vogue. Arsenical preparations having the same name vary in strength from 1 in 10,000 to 2 per cent., according to the national standard in accordance with which they have been made. The growing freedom of intercourse among nations has made this situation intolerable, and various efforts have been put forth to correct the evil. At last the Belgian government, by summoning the International Conference for the Unification of the Formulas of Heroic Medicines, at Brussels, apparently solved the difficulty. In this conference, which was official and diplomatic in nature, each government of the civilized world was represented by a physician and a chemist or pharmacist and after much talk standards of strength were finally agreed upon for all very potent drugs, and pledges were made by most governments that the National Pharmacopœias should be made to conform. The new United States Pharmacopœia is on the eve of printing; the Committee of Revision has adopted the results of the Brussels conference, and it will be the first National Pharmacopœia of International scope.