Pharmacopoea Internationalis

Vol. I, 1st edition, pp. XVIII plus 406., World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 1951. 35/-, $5.00, Sw. fr. 20

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To understand the Pharmacopoea Internationalis, one must realize that it is a mystery story in disguise. Fifty years ago the first convention met to formulate an international pharmacopoeia. International nomenclature and standards were obviously needed for communication between physicians and investigators in different countries. An international nomenclature had been achieved without difficulty in sciences that varied from botany to astronomy. Why then, was half a century required to produce a book a third as large as the United States Pharmacopeia? Committee meetings are notoriously wasteful of time, but fifty years is preposterously long, even for a committee meeting!

Careful examination reveals that the Pharmacopoea Internationalis is an exciting palimpsest. Behind the blandly objective text one may discern the imperfectly erased history of violent battles. The play of cloak-and-dagger arises from the very nature of the sciences of pharmacy and pharmacology. Various drugs are property. They are protected by patents or copyrights.

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