HealthSource Distributors On How Pharmacies Changed Over The Years In The United States

The history of pharmacies in the United States is a fascinating one, and to a certain extent mirrors the many influences that have shaped the nation and brought it to the forefront of global pharmaceutical practice today.

The Original Apothecary

The original practice of the apothecary, who were the forerunners of the modern pharmacists in the United States, relied to a large extent on the use of herbs and medicinal plants.

In fact, the evolution towards pharmacies was driven to a large extent by the desire to standardize practices of classification and agreement on uses of these medicinal plants. While this was happening, there was an explosion in the sheer number of new plants with pharmaceutical uses that were being discovered all across the ‘New World’.

Modern Pharmacies

However, it would be some time before the pharmacy or ‘drugstore’ assumed its modern form. It is likely that the first form was a general store in the 1600’s that would also stock some remedies for common ailments. Then followed a period of development until in the early 1800’s dedicated apothecary retail outlets began appearing in cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

An early pharmacy

It was the Spanish Colonials in New Orleans who first granted a license to a pharmacist and set in place a code of professional conduct. This happened as early as 1769. Suddenly, pharmacy was a respected profession.

Snake Oil Salesmen

In the early days of pharmacy practice it was the ‘snake oil’ salesmen who inadvertently brought about the development that pharmacy became a subject worthy of structured study in a university. So great were the levels of fraud, that by 1821 The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy was formed to formalize the study and deal with the increasing number of charlatans.

This development led directly to the formation of the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1852. With this development major cities across the region began to establish study facilities to promote the professional practice of pharmacy.

The Industrial Revolution

It was only a matter of time before the industrial revolution transformed the practice of pharmacy. During this period in the late 1800’s new technologies for the delivery of drugs became widespread. The tablet was invented as were other methods of oral administration of drugs. With these developments came a lowering of prices due to mass production. Suddenly pharmacies were springing up all across the United States.

These were not just general goods stores selling remedies on the side. This was a period when the ‘druggist’ became a feature of American life. The growth of skilled and highly educated pharmacists would eventually lead to the birth of chain store pharmacies where new innovations in over the counter medications, as well as the supply of medication prescribed by doctors would become commonplace.


The steady progression from amateur practitioners relying on the profusion of new plant based medications to a modern network of pharmacies could be seen to have come full circle. Today many of the remedies offered by pharmacists rely on natural ingredients — the difference is that now these remedies are subject to scientific scrutiny and are handled by professionals. The days of the snake oil salesman are over.

HealthSource Distributors LLC is a premier wholesale pharmaceutical distributor in the USA

HealthSource Distributors LLC is a premier wholesale pharmaceutical distributor in the USA