The Doctor and the Apothecary.


The relation to each other of doctor and apothecary has been a subject of considerable comment, generally assuming the character of a two-sided question, the affirmative or negative of which has depended mainly upon the sympathies or pecuniary interests of those who have entered into the discussion. It occurs to mind, however, that it is a question differing somewhat from the one as to "which side of the jug the handle should be on," differing in the fact that a third question is necessarily involved. It is no uncommon thing, on the one hand, to hear urged against apothecaries the complaint of "prescribing over the counter," as though the pecuniary interests of physicians were the only matters or interests with which apothecaries had to deal, entirely superseding their own or that of their patrons; while, on the other hand, apothecaries complain of physicians for prescribing special articles and special establishments, as though it were the paramount duty of physicians to see that every one who chose to start a drug store should be properly sustained and supported, entirely ignoring the important fact that those from whom both derive their support, and for whose benefit only either becomes a useful appendage to society, have rights, which not only entitle them to some consideration in determining this question, but which both are bound to respect; for instance, it is simply absurd to say that an apothecary should not recommend a simple remedy for a cough, when the person requesting the same can purchase anywhere a remedy for which he has no other guarantee than an advertised list of wonderful cures; or it is equally absurd to suppose that a physician is in duty bound to prescribe only such remedies as he may know or even suppose to be in every drug store, without regarding the requirements of his patient, or his own choice.

But this question of relation to each other does not end here, but assumes another phase, and has become to some extent involved in the issues existing in the medical profession—differences too frequently only of opinion, which in some instances have no better foundation upon which to build than the hobby of some one remarkable only for having a hobby. There may be those who prefer to be free to act out their part upon the stage of life free from the restrictions or supposed technical proprieties of organized associations, or associated organization, who may by choice prefer, or by necessity be compelled, to work out the problem of life, or ascend the hill of fame, depending exclusively upon their merit or good fortune. There may be others who prefer to surround themselves by such influences and conventionalities as they may deem essential or politic; or deem it of more importance to transmit a fame acquired by others, than acquire fame themselves. What have apothecaries to do with these divisions, that they should array themselves on the side of one. and against the other? Is there any necessary connection between the doctors and apothecaries, that will justify a sympathy on the part of the latter with any preposterous proposition, or absurd abstraction, that may tend to concentrate the few or separate the many of the former? I know that various attempts have been made to create an impression that Pharmacy is merely a collateral branch of, or dependent attachment to, medical science. To such an extent has this attempt been made in some localities that medical men have assumed to prescribe under what legislative restrictions Pharmacy should exist. This attempt has not been made by medical men only; pharmacists themselves, in some instances, have taken up the cudgel and battered away in defence of some pet theory of medicine, thus identifying themselves with this, or following in the wake of that, as though it were a proper subject of investigation, where pharmacy should be located or to what subdivision of medicine it should be attached. Is pharmacy to be confined to one or more beaten paths? Shall it be denied the privilege of entering newly opened avenues and positively forbidden to open any itself? As astronomical science knows no bounds, but embraces the universe, so let pharmacists at least regard medical science as embracing all medical knowledge.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).