In 1768, 250 years ago, the University of Edinburgh appointed Francis Home to the first chair of materia medica, the accumulated knowledge of materials used in healing. Francis Home and his colleagues were determined to improve the quality of medical training in Edinburgh by introducing a final examination and compiling a catalog of medicines validated by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The catalog, known as the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia, was a great success, partly due to the orderly nature of its contents, its routine editing to eliminate worthless entries, and the introduction of new treatments whose preparation was precisely documented. In a relatively short time, the worth of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia was recognized throughout Europe, America, and the British Empire. Today, the British and European Pharmacopoeias are catalogs of publicly available, legally enforceable standards for active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished dosage forms of pharmaceutical products and medical devices. Home and the many luminaries who succeeded him would surely take pleasure and pride in the fact that the mantra of today's medicines regulators worldwide is little different from that of these early visionaries: “To take better advantage of the best possible science in the service of the public health and our health-care systems” (1, p. 492).


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