HOPP Interview—Mat Savelli, “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements” 

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the inaugural issue of AIHP’s journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP) (vol. 63, no. 1). Today we feature Mat Savelli, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Health, Aging, and Society at McMaster University. Read his article here (open access until February 2022!) and consider joining AIHP to subscribe to HoPP.

Article Abstract for “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements”

In this article, we examine advertisements for psychoactive products sold in five different geo-political jurisdictions: Canada, Colombia, Yugoslavia, India, and Senegal. We compare products and marketing campaigns aimed at selling psychoactive substances to consumers in these places over the twentieth century.

Mat Savelli Interview Title Card
Left: Senegalese advertisement from December 24, 1960, issue of Dakar Matin. The ad proclaims that Kiravi Valpierre wine is the “Perfect Product of Progress.” Image featured in the article “Crafting Modernity via Psychoactivity Advertisements” in HoPP 63.1

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Inaugural Issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals Published!

The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) is pleased to announce that the first issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP), the Institute’s renamed academic journal is now available online at JSTOR (63.1, 2021)! This issue of the journal is also the first published under AIHP’s new partnership with the University of Wisconsin Press. HoPP continues Pharmacy in History, which AIHP self-published from 1959 through 2020.

The first issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals features articles about trademarks and intellectual property rights in the British drug market in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the history of non-branded compounded drugs in the Netherlands; the introduction of cocaine to China; and an analysis of the global advertising of psychoactive drugs. Editor-in-Chief Lucas Richert said that the first issue of the re-titled HoPP “represents the increasingly global and vibrant nature of pharmacy and pharmaceutical history.”

HoPP1 SocialCard 2

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Points Video Interview—Yan Liu, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to feature the first Points Video Interview today! SHAD co-Editor Dr. David Herzberg interviews Dr. Yan Liu about his new book, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China.

Points Interview Yan Liu

At first glance, medicine and poison might seem to be opposites. But in China’s formative era of pharmacy (200–800 CE), poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. In Healing with Poisons, Dr. Yan Liu explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful drugs to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. By recovering alternative modes of understanding wellness and the body’s interaction with potent drugs, this book cautions against arbitrary classifications and exemplifies the importance of paying attention to the technical, political, and cultural conditions in which drugs become truly meaningful.

In this interview conducted by David Herzberg, Dr. Liu discusses several topics from his book, including the crucial, but forgotten role of poisons in Chinese medicine during the medieval era, the misconceived dichotomy between Chinese and Western medicine, psychoactive drugs, and the close relationship between poison, witchcraft, and politics in medieval China.

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Opioids, Overdose, Abstinence—A Historically Deadly Combination

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University.

We have told ourselves the “opioid crisis” is an exception to past drug scares. In the past century, the narrative goes, we relied on law enforcement and punishment to curb widescale drug use, but our country now has turned over a new leaf—one centered on public health and compassion. Had it not been for Purdue Pharma, a uniquely bad actor, the spread of addiction and overdose deaths would have never occurred.

None of this is true. Rhetorically, yes, smart politicians now deemphasize the punishment aspect in public speeches. But law enforcement plays a greater role than ever before in regulating the use of drugs—from the zealous policing of some people who use illegal drugs to expansive prescription monitoring programs and from the detailed cataloging of the dosage of Americans’ medications to DEA to threats to doctors who fail to obey their dictates. Such strict and exacting regulations often leave elderly patients and patients with chronic pain out in the cold unable to secure necessary drugs. Yet, at the same time, prohibitionist drug control measures have also done little to stop the proliferation of black-market drugs.

Far from being a deviation, this has long been the norm and with often devastating results. Regardless of your thoughts about current events, this post will let us look back and travel to the past to try to clarify why overdose deaths continue to increase now despite a dramatic recent decrease in opioid prescriptions. And why this situation unlikely to change under current conditions. For about the last century, the United States government has abided by a philosophy that seems to prioritize drug abstinence and the strict policing of drug use at the expense of saving lives. To investigate this continuity, I will briefly examine two episodes: a 1930s critique of an early version of the war on drugs and the government’s opposition to needle exchanges during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

Points Hudson Title Card Opioids
Left: A 10 milligram OxyContin pill. Source: Wikimedia Foundation.

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A Bloody Business: American Vaccine Production at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Editor’s Note: Patrick M. Walsh is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He studies the the cross-talk between bacteriology, immunology and endocrinology in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Vaccines and Blood
“Preparation of an Antitoxin” at Parke-Davis Laboratories during the 1920s. Left: “Bleeding and siphoning—Collection of blood from the immunized animal in a large bottle containing oxalate.” Right: “Removal of antitoxic plasma by siphoning after the formed elements of the blood have been allowed to settle out.” Source: Parke-Davis and Company Biological Products catalog, c. 1930, Courtesy of AIHP Kremers Reference Files.

Blood is everywhere I look in the Kremers Reference Files (KRF) at the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP). It’s in trade manuals published from the 1890s to the 1930s by Parke-Davis, Eli Lilly, and H. K. Mulford. It’s in advertisements from meatpacking-turned-drug companies, including Bovinine and the Cudahy Packing Company. It’s in dusty, century-old newspaper clippings that describe how tons of animal flesh were transported from slaughterhouse to factory line, ripe for experimentation and drug production.

I came to the KRF to start my dissertation work about the American vaccine industry at the turn of the twentieth century, but, instead, all I found was blood. Image after image of blood being suctioned out of stable-bound horses. Blood coursing through plastic tubes that look like fiberoptic cables. Blood being rapidly deposited into oversized receptacles, red foam climbing up the sides of the glass. Some of the images look almost staged—deliberately and self-consciously reenacting a scene from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, then just 80 years old.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. I knew before going into the KRF that the vaccine industry was fully launched in the 1890s with the diphtheria antitoxin vaccine, that this was a “serotherapy,” and that all serotherapies involve a process of blood harvesting. It is a vampiric practice by definition. Hundreds of horses stand at attention, and scientists buzz around them like angry mosquitoes, directing their syringes with precision into pulsing jugulars, delighting at the extraction of potent antitoxins that hurtle invisibly through equine vascular systems. Antitoxin-rich blood was as good as gold at the turn of the century, and it brought companies like Parke-Davis and H. K. Mulford material, social, and political capital.

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Make a Nomination for the 2021 George Urdang Medal!

Urdang Medal

Do you know a scholar, researcher, writer, or author who deserves recognition for a long and distinguished record of scholarship and achievements in the field of the history of pharmacy and pharmaceuticals? Please nominate nominate them for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy’s 2021 George Urdang Medal!

The George Urdang Medal recognizes the lifetime achievements of a person who, over a sustained period, has made important scholarly contributions to the field of the history of pharmacy and pharmaceuticals. It is awarded without regard to citizenship or nationality, and AIHP will be accepting nominations until June 1, 2021.

Nominations must include at least one letter of nomination outlining the nominee’s scholarly contributions to the field. Nominations must also include the nominee’s curriculum vitae (or similar biographical information) and any other documents or supporting materials for the panel to consider. Please email nominations to aihp@aihp.org by the deadline.

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80 Years of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy

Editor’s note: On January 1, 2021, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) joined the Alcohol and Drugs History Society as a co-sponsor of Points. On the occasion of AIHP’s 80th birthday on Friday, January 22, 2021, we would like to take the opportunity to introduce the past and the present of AIHP to the readers of Points. Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Higby, the former longtime AIHP Executive Director. In his current roles as the AIHP Fischelis Scholar and as a Senior Curator at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, Dr. Higby continues to manage and maintain the historical collections at AIHP and the UW School of Pharmacy in his semi-retirement. Happy Birthday, AIHP!

AIHP Logo

On January 22, 1941, six men gathered in a pharmacognosy laboratory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and founded the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. Its explicit purpose was to serve as a center for pharmaco-historical research and information. Its implicit purpose was to provide an academic home for scholar-pharmacist Dr. George Urdang, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. Urdang had fled Berlin in 1938, making his way to New York, where he obtained an American pharmacy degree from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy at age 57.

Soon afterward, in the summer of 1939, Wisconsin pharmacy professor Edward Kremers recruited Urdang to Madison to help complete a comprehensive history of pharmacy textbook based on materials Kremers had been collecting for decades. After the publication of Kremers and Urdang’s History of Pharmacy by Lippincott in 1940, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy was established with Urdang as its first Director.

Later in 1941, an anonymous dispatch—no doubt written by Urdang—announced the establishment of the new historical society in Madison, Wisconsin, and outlined the purposes of this “center for all pharmaco-historical work”:

  1. To aid in the collection, selection, arrangement, and exhibition of pharmaceutico-historical material and—as far as possible—to catalogue and to inventory this material;
  2. To give the research worker in the field of historical pharmacy the possibility to discuss his projects, to get advice on literature, and to publish the manuscripts concerned;
  3. To furnish information and means for historical instruction at the Colleges of Pharmacy;
  4. To furnish material for popular pharmaceutico-historical information directly to the general public (journals, newspapers, etc.), or to individual pharmacists for use in their social or professional relations;
  5. To cooperate with the historians of the related sciences and professions, especially of medicine, in order to promote the mutual scientific, professional, and social understanding and progress derived from such a cooperation.
George Urdang and students in 1950
In addition to serving as AIHP’s Director, George Urdang (second from right) was hired as a Professor by the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy in 1947. He soon established the first History of Pharmacy graduate program in the United States, and he is seen here with his first cohort of graduate students, including future AIHP Executive Director Glenn Sonnedecker (left). Image courtesy of AIHP Kremers Reference Files.

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