A Historical Overview of Pharmacotherapy

September 23, 2021

Pharmacotherapy is medical treatment based on using pharmaceutical drugs to treat illnesses and other conditions. Sometimes, medical professionals refer to pharmacotherapy as simply medical therapy. Other types of therapy include surgical therapy, radiation therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Pharmacology is a branch of science dedicated to improving available pharmacotherapy options and inventing new treatments. Pharmacology and pharmacotherapy are tightly linked, and some people and publications use the terms interchangeably.

What Is Pharmacotherapy?

Pharmacists are the professional face of pharmacotherapy, the administration of medications to treat help problems. Although doctors and other medical professionals prescribe medication and keep up to date on new medications and treatments, pharmacists are the ones who ensure that patients receive safe and appropriate medications. Pharmacists can pursue a credential from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties and become a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist. These specialists ensure that pharmacotherapy treatments are properly implemented and appropriate and are based on evidence-based knowledge. They also work in teams of other specialists to make sure that the pharmacotherapy received by patients is administered properly.

When it Was First Developed

Civilizations throughout time and around the world have sought knowledge of how to treat illnesses and injuries. There’s written evidence from the sixth century B.C.E. of pharmacotherapy. Another example of an ancient pharmacotherapy manual dates back to China’s Han Dynasty in the first century B.C.E. This series of books is known as the Shennong Ben Cao Jing and is made up of thousands of prescriptions and recipes in more than 40 volumes. Books containing medical knowledge and treatments continued to be published across the centuries, providing evidence of pharmacological breakthroughs. For example, in the early 1800s, scientists made morphine out of poppies.

Who Invented it?

Although pharmacotherapy has been practiced since ancient times, a German scientist born in the 19th century is credited as being the founder of modern pharmacotherapy and pharmacological movements. Oswald Schmiedeberg graduated from the University of Dorpat, where he wrote a dissertation explaining how to measure the amount of chloroform in blood. He devoted most of his career to studying how toxins impacted the heart and therefore how to develop and deliver heart-safe pharmacotherapy to patients.

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What Pharmacotherapy Is Used For

Anyone who has ever taken acetaminophen for a fever or had a medication prescribed to them by their doctors has benefited from pharmacotherapy. The field is used to treat any condition that can be improved or cured with medication. Even some other therapies, like surgery, are dependent on pharmacotherapy. Anesthesiology and antibiotics to treat infections are both part of pharmacotherapy. Recently, there have been many pharmacotherapy breakthroughs in the treatment of mental disorders as well.

Drug Discovery and Opioids

One controversy about modern-day pharmacotherapies has been the development and prescribing of very powerful pain medications, leading to many patients developing life-altering addictions. However, the vast majority of new treatments developed and delivered through the partnership between pharmacology and pharmacotherapies have saved and improved countless lives.

Modern Pharmacotherapy Compared to 19th-Century Pharmacotherapy

Modern pharmacotherapy is based on the advancements made at the end of the 19th century. During this period, pharmacology became recognized as a scientific discipline, and pharmacotherapy also became professionalized. Major advancements were made at the University of Michigan, including the discovery of epinephrine, which would have a large impact on the development of various pharmacotherapies. The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics was founded in 1906, which continued to professionalize and legitimize these fields of study. The 20th century was a golden age for both disciplines, as treatments for numerous ailments were developed and the role of pharmacists was formalized along with the development of more effective pharmaceuticals.

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