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By Margery Facklam, Howard Facklam, Sean M. Grady

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Additional resources for Modern Medicines: The Discovery and Development of Healing Drugs (Science and Technology in Focus)

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It had been a devastating, uncontrolled social disease for centuries, as frightening then as AIDS is now. It also was a virtually untreatable disease. Compounds containing the metal mercury were the most effective medicines physicians had to combat syphilis, and those were nearly useless. Not only did mercury have little effect on the spirochetes, but it was toxic to patients. Ehrlich decided to try attacking the syphilis bacteria with a series of arsenic compounds that he had developed in his work on sleeping sickness.

It was up to physicians and pharmacists to decide whether to use the drug listed in this second section. , which was revised once a decade, gradually eliminated such “doubtful” medicines. Classrooms and Battlefields Along with the new standards for pharmacy, nations set new standards for training apothecaries. Until the late 18th century, the skills of the pharmacy trade were passed from a pharmacist to his apprentices as frequently as they were presented in a formal university class. In Prussia (a kingdom whose territory now is part of modern-day Germany), for example, someone who wanted to enter the profession in a large city after 1725 had to complete at least 10 years of training under a licensed pharmacist and complete an academic program at a Berlin medical college.

Washington was still sick the next morning, and two other doctors were called in to assist. They ordered two more “copious bleedings,” a hot pack called a “blister” for the patient’s throat and feet, and two doses of calomel, a strong medication also known as mercurous chloride. Washington received another bleeding that afternoon, for a total loss of four pints of blood—two quarts’ worth, enough to send anyone’s blood pressure to dangerously low levels. His physicians had him force another dose of calomel down his throat, followed by a potion to make him vomit.

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