In my novel On Distant Shores, which officially releases August 1, 2013, the hero, Tech. Sgt. John "Hutch" Hutchinson, serves as an Army pharmacist in World War II.
|Street scene, including drug store, Cascade, Idaho 1940s|
As a pharmacist, I found much
about my profession has changed, but some things have not—the personal concern
for patients, the difficult balance between health care and business, and the
struggle to gain respect in the physician-dominated health care world. Today
I’ll discuss the role of the pharmacist in the 1940s, next we'll visit thelocal drug store and see how its role changed during the war, and then I’ll review the role of pharmacy in the US military.
of Pharmacy in the 1940s
Although the term of druggist has
been abandoned by the profession, in the 1940s the terms of pharmacist and druggist
were interchangeable. The 1940 US census counted over 80,000 pharmacists. The majority
worked in retail pharmacy, with only 3000 working in hospitals. In fact, less
than half of hospitals had a pharmacist on staff.
A cornerstone of pharmacy had
always been compounding, the practice of mixing a prescription from raw
ingredients. Pharmacists made creams, ointments, elixirs, suspensions,
capsules, tablets, suppositories, and powder papers. Every pharmacist owned a copy of the USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) guide—the
11th Edition (1937) or 12th Edition (1942), which provided chemical data on each substance. By the 1940s, pharmacists did less compounding—about 70 percent of prescriptions were filled with manufactured dosage
In the 1940s, the pharmacist was
a vital member of the community. Often viewed as more accessible than
physicians, pharmacists were relied upon for health information and the
treatment of minor ailments.
The first four-year Bachelor’s of
Science degree in pharmacy was offered by Ohio State University in 1925. The
four-year program became mandatory with the incoming class of 1932.
In 1942, sixty-eight colleges of
pharmacy operated in the United States. In addition to general education
requirements, pharmacy students studied pharmacy, pharmaceutical
chemistry, pharmacognosy (deriving pharmaceuticals from raw substances, such as
plants), pharmacology (the effect of a drug on the body), and business. To
increase the chance that a student would finish his degree before being
drafted, most colleges of pharmacy adopted a year-round, three-year program
during the war.
Each state had its own licensing
requirements and examinations, and there was no reciprocity between states. For
example, a pharmacist licensed in California had to take a new set of
examinations if he moved to Michigan.
In a nation of 130 million, over
11 million would serve in the armed forces during the course of the war. This
produced a manpower shortage on the home front, and pharmacy was not immune. As
a class, pharmacists were not exempt from the draft, but local draft boards could
declare individuals as “necessary men” if their enlistment would negatively
affect the health of the community. During World War II between 10,000-14,000
pharmacists served in the military. Due to this loss, approximately 15 percent
of drug stores closed during the war. The west coast was hard hit when all
Japanese-American pharmacists were forcibly interned.
However, more opportunities
opened for women as colleges and employers actively recruited them. While less than
5 percent of pharmacists in 1940 were female, the percentage of female pharmacy
students rose above 15 percent during the war.
Due to store closures, the
average store filled 13 percent more prescriptions than before the war. This
increase in workload was balanced by depletion of other goods due to rationing
and shortages. In addition, citizens were encouraged to take better care of
their health so they could contribute to the war effort, which led to an
increase in physician visits. Overworked physicians dispensed fewer drugs from
their offices and sent more patients to pharmacies. As a result, the average drug
store enjoyed an 80 percent increase in sales during the war.
Pharmacists dealt with shortages
of ingredients and medications. A serious shortage of quinine, used to treat
malaria, led the military to collect the majority of the nation’s quinine stock.
Also, shortages of alcohol, sugar, and glycerin taxed the ability of
pharmacists to compound. Each pharmacy received a ration of ten pounds of sugar
a week for compounding purposes.
My main source was this
excellent, comprehensive, and well-researched book: Worthen, Dennis B. Pharmacy in World War II. New York:
Pharmaceutical Products Press, 2004.
http://www.lloydlibrary.org (Website of the
Lloyd Library and Museum, which has many articles and resources on the history
United States Pharmacopoeial
Convention. The Pharmacopoeia of the
United States of America, Twelfth Edition. Easton PA: Mack Printing
Company, 1 November 1942.
Labels: pharmacists, pharmacy, pharmacy in WWII, World War II