32 – The Standardization of Pharmaceuticals

Despite the professional skill and integrity of 19th-century pharmacists, seldom did two preparations of vegetable drugs have the same strength, even though prepared by identical processes. Plant drugs varied widely in active alkaloidal and glucosidal content. The first answer to this problem came when Parke, Davis & Company introduced standardized “Liquor Ergotae Purificatus” in 1879. Dr. Albert Brown Lyons, as the firm’s Chief Chemist, further developed methods of alkaloidal assay. Messrs. Parke and Davis recognized the value of his work, and in 1883, announced a list of twenty standardized “normal liquids.” Parke-Davis also pioneered in developing pharmacologic and physiologic standards for pharmaceuticals.

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