The journey of pharmacy is a fascinating chapter that traces back to the Arabs of the 2nd century, pioneers in the art of creating medicines. Their innovative techniques of distillation, plant extraction, and substance mixing gave rise to apothecaries, where pharmacists and apothecaries, true masters in the manipulation of remedies, served both the local population and royalty. In ancient times, there was no distinction between a physician and a pharmacist, as the same professional diagnosed diseases and prepared necessary medications. This separation was only formalized around the 12th century.
Apothecaries were not merely points of sale for medications; they were true centers of knowledge and wisdom. Pharmacists not only prepared medicines but also unraveled the secrets of medicinal plants, accumulating vast knowledge about their properties and therapeutic uses. Moreover, these places became meeting centers where people sought cures and advice on health and well-being, transforming pharmacists into trusted and respected advisors in their communities.
The expertise of pharmacists extended beyond medication manipulation; they were consulted to create personalized blends, adapting treatments according to individual patient needs. This personalized approach to medicine and the ability to understand the different effects of substances contributed to the reputation and trust placed in these professionals over the centuries.
Apothecaries, besides providing medications, were places of learning where pharmacy students could refine their skills following the teachings of master apothecaries. These establishments played a vital role in preserving and disseminating pharmaceutical knowledge, profoundly influencing the practice of pharmacy throughout history.
In this journey, notable figures like Hippocrates (460 B.C.) and Galen (2nd century) left a crucial legacy. Hippocrates, the renowned Greek physician, not only introduced ethical principles but also profoundly influenced pharmacy with his practical approach. Galen, considered the father of pharmacy, significantly expanded medical and pharmaceutical knowledge, shaping the pharmaceutical practice we know today. The very origin of the word “pharmacy,” from the Greek “pharmakon,” illustrates the duality of substances as medicine or poison—a duality present throughout the history of pharmacology. The iconic symbol of a cup with a coiled serpent, originating from Greek mythology, represents power and healing, reflecting the essence of the pharmaceutical profession.
The first foray into pharmacy occurred with the arrival of Diogo de Castro in 1549, brought from Portugal by Governor Thomé de Souza, appointed by the Portuguese crown. Diogo de Castro is considered the first apothecary in the country. However, it was only in 1839 that Brazil established its first pharmacy school, the School of Pharmacy in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais. This institution was a crucial milestone, elevating pharmaceutical practice to a new level of professionalism in the country.
The evolution of pharmacy also embraced hospital pharmacy over the centuries, focusing on the preparation and distribution of medications in hospital settings. Over time, hospital pharmacy evolved to become a fundamental pillar in healthcare, significantly contributing to the recovery and health of hospitalized patients. This practice remains an essential element in modern healthcare, ensuring the integrity and effectiveness of treatments in hospital environments.
The regulation of the pharmaceutical profession in Brazil was established through Decree 20,377/1931 and Law 3,820/1960, which gave rise to the Federal Pharmacy Council (CFF) and the Regional Pharmacy Councils (CRF). These legislations were fundamental in structuring the pharmaceutical field, establishing standards and guidelines that guide the practice and regulation of the profession in the country. Commemorative dates such as National Pharmacy Day (August 5), National Pharmacist Day (January 20), and International Pharmacist Day (September 25), instituted by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), recognize the importance of these professionals in public and private healthcare organizations.
The 20th century witnessed impressive advances in pharmacy. New drugs were developed, regulations became stricter, and scientific research focused on improving treatments. This technical, social, and scientific evolution shaped contemporary pharmaceutical practice—a field in constant transformation and innovation for the well-being of society.
Looking to the future, opportunities for pharmacists are vast and exciting. With technological advances, genomics, and personalized medicine, a horizon of discoveries and innovations opens. Pharmacy is in constant transformation, and pharmacists are at the forefront of this evolution, ready to embrace new challenges and shape a future of even more promising health. Their role as caretakers of public health will continue to grow, dedicated to improving the quality of life for people in all communities. The history of pharmacy is an inspiring journey of resilience, learning, and commitment, with a future full of possibilities for pharmacists to continue making a difference in people’s lives.