Surprising facts about the history of pharmacy

You’ll probably be surprised to learn that pharmacists are actually the ones responsible for the creation of several soft drinks, or that many poisonous substances are actually made into helpful medications. The history of the pharmaceutical industry is filled with many surprising facts as BCBSKS staff pharmacist Tiffany Liesmann shares below.


Maybe it’s just me, but I find facts about pharmacy to be really interesting. Perhaps it’s time to reveal my inner pharmacy-geek with you and share a handful of interesting pharmacy facts.

  • Louisiana was the first state to require pharmacists to be licensed. Louis Dufilho Jr. became the first licensed pharmacist in 1816.
  • Pharmacists are responsible for many of your favorite soft drinks. Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola and Pepsi were all invented by pharmacists in the late 1800s.
  • Tamper-resistant packaging was created after Tylenol capsules laced with lethal doses of cyanide were found on store shelves in Chicago in 1982. Seven people died as a result of this crime and the perpetrators of these murders have never been identified.
  • Many poisonous substances are made into helpful medications. The Pacific yew tree is made into a powerful drug used for cancer treatment. Snake venom was a precursor to a class of drugs used to treat blood pressure.
  • Nitroglycerin is a medication used to alleviate chest pain. It’s also the main ingredient for dynamite.
  • Warfarin is a common blood thinner that was discovered when a U.S. Army inductee tried to commit suicide with rat poison. The effect was reversed with vitamin K and warfarin was approved for use in humans in 1954.
Tiffany Liesmann, BCBSKS staff pharmacist

Sources: PharmacyTimes.com, DrPepperMuseum.com, Coca-ColaCompany.com, PepsiStore.com, Nature.com

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