Preface 1907

Preface to the British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1907.

The scope of this work may well be defined by describing the book as an Imperial dispensatory for the use of medical practitioners and pharmacists, since it contains information respecting all drugs and medicines in common use throughout the British Empire, including the principal substances and preparations which are official in the Pharmacopoeias of France, Germany, and the United States, as well as those described in the British Pharmacopoeia. The chief aim of the work is the provision of accurate information for prescribers and dispensers, special attention being given to the requirements of those practising in the British dominions beyond the seas. Pharmacopoeias were originally produced for the purpose of enabling dispensers to determine the meaning and value of the terms employed in extemporaneous prescriptions, and thus gradually became registers of approved and established remedies, containing descriptions of the drugs and chemicals officially recognised for use in the treatment of disease, with formulae for such compounded medicines as admitted of being kept ready for use. It is well known, however, that pharmacopoeias do not, as a rule, deal with more than a portion of the materia medica in common use at the time they are published. Numerous medicaments in constant demand are excluded because their value as remedies is not thought to be sufficiently established; others, again, cease to receive official recognition though the demand for them continues.

With the object of providing recognised formulae for medicines which are not official in the British Empire, various supplements to the pharmacopoeias have been published from time to time, the most notable being that of Gray, which first appeared in 1818.

In that work was originally given a concise account of the actual state of the existing knowledge of drugs in general; subsequent editions of Gray's 'Supplement,' edited by the late Professor Redwood, were equally comprehensive in their scope, and included a great number of unofficial formulae for the preparation of medicinal substances which were prescribed by practitioners in medicine, and supplied by those who practised pharmacy. This extremely useful work, however, has not been re-published since the British Pharmacopoeia was called into existence by the Medical Act of 1858, though there has been no lack of excellent books, produced by private enterprise, which have served in great measure to fill the place which the 'Supplements' of Gray and Redwood formerly occupied. These more recent works have usefully supplemented the official materia medica by giving particulars of medicinal articles which were formerly official; in addition, they have furnished much valuable information concerning the newer materia medica, consisting of substances and preparations which have not yet attained the status of officially approved and established remedies. But no book hitherto published has realised the ideal of a guide such as is needed throughout the British Empire by those engaged in the prescribing or dispensing of medicines. A work published by the authority of some statutory body was manifestly required to meet the needs of the case; and, by a resolution formally adopted on November 4, 1903, the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain decided to produce a book of reference which, as now completed, may fairly be regarded as supplying, authoritative guidance to those concerned.

The plan of the work may be described briefly as resembling generally that of most pharmacopoeias and dispensatories. Monographs on drugs of vegetable and animal origin, and others dealing with chemical substances used in medicine, with formulae for galenical preparations and solutions, are arranged in strict alphabetical order under Latinised names, with English equivalents, and synonyms where such exist. In the case of crude drugs, each monograph begins with a brief statement as to the botanical or zoological, geographical, and commercial sources of the drug, the natural order or family to which the plant or animal belongs, and the methods of collecting and preparing the drug for the market. Then follows a detailed description of the drug, including, where necessary, its distinctive histological features and information regarding its important chemical constituents. The pharmacological action of the drug is next described, its common uses are mentioned, and notes are given respecting the best methods of prescribing and dispensing the remedy. The dose of the medicament is given in both metric and Imperial quantities, and special notes on methods of storage, adulterants, etc., are provided, where required, in smaller type. The monographs on chemical substances are arranged in much the same way, brief references to the methods of production being followed by descriptions, statements of physical properties, tests, antidotes, etc. Pharmacological notes and suggestions as to prescribing and dispensing follow, with doses and special notes as in the case of crude drugs, attention being directed to the different commercial varieties, where such varieties are used for scientific and technical purposes, as well as in medicine.

In order to render the work more valuable to medical practitioners, much information is given regarding the properties of drugs, and the conditions and diseases in which galenical preparations are usually given. The notes on the properties of drugs are not mere excerpts from medical literature, but original and concise descriptions of physiological action, which should assist medical practitioners to formulate a rational therapy, without encouraging counter prescribing. No attempt is made to deal fully with the subject of therapeutics, and the notes on prescribing are simply such as will assist medical practitioners to construct their prescriptions in a scientific and practical manner.

The formulae for galenical preparations and solutions are arranged on a somewhat novel plan, every preparation being made up, except in few instances, to one hundred parts by weight or volume. As a result, either metric or Imperial weights may be employed in compounding, and prescribers can see at a glance what is the approximate percentage composition of any preparation. This centesimal system of representing formulae possesses certain disadvantages, which are perhaps most marked in the case of such classes of preparations as lozenges, pills and suppositories. As a means of overcoming these disadvantages and minimising the labour of calculating the quantities required to make a pint, pound, or ounce of any preparation, the conversion table specially complied for that purpose should be found useful. At the same time, the use of decimal (metric) weights and measures is recommended.

Greater prominence is given to many classes of galenical preparations than is usually accorded to them in pharmacopoeias, and the formulae include many which are entirely new, though they have been tried and tested, the idea being to provide recognised methods of preparing compounded medicines which are not recognised in the British Pharmacopoeia. Notes on the uses of the galenical preparations and solutions are given in most instances, and the doses appear in both metric and Imperial quantities. In order to avoid risk of error, the practice followed in stating doses in the metric system has been to denote any decimal part of a gramme by its proper denomination -decigram, centigram, or milligram, as the case may be; similarly, doses of liquid medicines are stated as so many mils (measuring water: 1 ml (milliliter) = 1/1000 of a liter = 1 cc (cubic centimeter) = 1 g (gram)), decimils (1 "decimil" = 0.1 milliliter), or centimils (1 "centimil" = 0.01 milliliter). Sheesh, and they were trying to make things simpler? They're confusing everybody and their uncle, what with centiliters and deciliters. No worries, I've changed it back, throughout.—Henriette), in preference to expressing the quantities in cubic centimetres and fractions thereof. The use of the words "mil," "decimil," and "centimil" has been resorted to as a means of overcoming a difficulty which seemed likely to retard the much to be desired adoption of the metric system by prescribers. The custom of measuring liquids, which tends to accuracy, besides saving time in practice, renders it imperative that there should be convenient short names for small metric measures of capacity, and the adoption of the new terms may be regarded as completing the metric system, which has hitherto required the addition of conveniently-named small measures of capacity, corresponding in volume to the "cubic centimetre" and fractional parts of that measure, for use in countries where liquids are measured rather than weighed. Apart from the use of the new terms in stating doses, it will be found that the term "mil" is used throughout the work, as representing the one-thousandth part of a litre, instead of the less accurate "cubic centimetre," or its abbreviation "c.c.," the use of which is often open to criticism.

Special attention has been devoted to the nomenclature of substances of definite composition which are known under a variety of names, and it has been considered desirable to describe such substances under brief, more or less descriptive names, which have, in some instances, been specially devised for the purpose. Reference is made to trade-protected names and other commercial designations of such substances in footnotes to the respective monographs, though prescribers will prefer to encourage the use of names which everyone is free to use. Trade-names, as a rule, can only be legally applied to products of firms or individuals in whom proprietary rights in those names are vested, and the attention of dispensers is particularly directed to the fact that, when a medicament is ordered under a proprietary trade-name, it is not permissible to substitute a similar product to which that trade-name does not legally apply.

With the object of securing uniformity in prescribing and dispensing practice, the formulae given, where not original, correspond to those with the same names in the British Pharmacopoeia, the British Pharmaceutical Conference 'Unofficial Formulary,' the 'Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary,' the 'Bournemouth Formulary,' the 'Canadian Compendium of Medicines,' the 'National Formulary,' and various hospital and foreign pharmacopoeias. It should be clearly understood that the official substances or preparations are intended wherever the names of drugs, chemicals, galenical preparations, and test solutions accord with those of the British Pharmacopoeia. Terms such as "water-bath," "ordinary temperature," etc., should be regarded as having the same significance as in the British Pharmacopoeia; the same applies to the degrees of fineness of powders. All liquids should be measured unless it is specially directed that they are to be weighed; statements regarding solubilities and specific gravities must be understood to refer to determinations at 15.5° Centigrade, unless otherwise specified, temperatures are invariably stated in degrees Centigrade; the atomic weights used are those adopted by the International Committee on Atomic Weights, in its report for the year 1907. The use of abbreviations in the text has been avoided as far as practicable; of the few which have been used for the sake of convenience, the letters "B.P." stand for British Pharmacopoeia, "P.G." for the German Pharmacopoeia, "U.S.P." for the Pharmacopoeia of the United States of America, "N.F." for the 'National Formulary of Unofficial Preparations,' and "w/v" represents "weight in volume," indicating that a weighed quantity of a solid substance is contained in solution in a measured quantity of liquid. An exhaustive index is provided, in which lists of the preparations of all drugs and chemicals will be found under the English names of the substances, the Latin names of the medicaments and their chief preparations being also given, as well as the names of everything of importance mentioned in the text.

The production of the work has been entrusted by the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society to the following Committee: —


This Committee has deputed the labour of compiling the information and conducting investigations to a Sub-Committee consisting of Dr. W. E. DIXON, Professor of Pharmacology, King's College, London; Professor H. G. GREENISH, F.I.C., F.L.S.; Mr. EDMUND WHITE, B.Sc. (Lond.), F.I.C., Mr. W. F. GULLIVER, Mr. F. W. GAMBLE, and Mr. JOHN HUMPHREY (Secretary). During the earlier stages of the work Mr. HAROLD WILSON (since deceased) and Mr. WILLIAM KIRKBY were associated with the Sub-Committee, and the thanks and acknowledgements of the Council are also due to many other members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, who have rendered whole hearted service, and spared no endeavour to bring the work to a successful issue.

In conclusion, attention must be directed to the fact that much arduous labour has been devoted to problems which have required .extended research for their solution. Some of this work has been performed in the Pharmaceutical Society's Pharmaceutical Research Laboratory, but a large proportion has been privately undertaken by individual members of the Society, and many of the results have been recorded during the past four years in The Pharmaceutical journal. Further research will be needed before certain sections of the Codex can be regarded as entirely satisfactory, and the Council therefore invites the co-operation of the pharmacists of the British Empire in rendering the work more generally useful and valuable as a book of reference.

October 1, 1907.

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.