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The history of prescriptions

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As it is the summer holidays, I have beenreverting back to doing all of the things I love simply because I now have the time to do so as I no longer have a hectic pharmacy student schedule! One of my favourite things to do in my spare time is to read. The book I am currently reading coincidentally happened to be based around a pharmaceutical company and also taught me some interesting facts about the history of prescriptions which I immediately knew I had to share to the readers of my blog!

As we know, the symbol Rx represents a prescription. It initially came from ancient Egypt where this symbol was written on prescriptions as a prayer to the god of  healing. Rx is also a symbol for theEye of Horus. Horus was an Egyptian god who, to cut a long story short, had his eye damaged and taken out of him. He had his eye healed by another god andHorus then gave his healed eye to his dead father to bring him back to life.

Additionally, Rx is also an abbreviation for the Latin word ‘recipe’. In theolden days, directions were given to pharmacists to make up and prepare a medicine, which can be likened to a recipe.

Another point my book taught me about was The Egyptian Papyrus Ebers. This is a medical Egyptian document written in hieroglyphics and dates back to 1550 BC. It lists 811 prescriptions for various ailments andalso describes the conditions to be treated, which range from crocodile bite to wasp stings to eczema and to cancer. Upon further research, I found a few remedies that I thought to be interesting as these are things we would never use to treat conditions in 2012! For asthma, a mixture of herbs heated on a brick was used for the patient to inhale the fumes. For death, half an onion and beer froth was the remedy. Other remedies also included crocodile dung, camels pit plus many others of a similar nature.

I feel intrigued by the depth of pharmaceutical history there is and also how far we have come to in our day and age where life expectancy is high and is continuing to rise. I think it would be a great idea if the history of prescriptions were incorporated into a module of the MPharm degree to give pharmacy students an overview of the origins of their futur eprofession!

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