RCP fellows and the history of pharmacology in the 20th century

Today, two medical specialties are concerned with pharmaceutics: clinical pharmacology and pharmaceutical medicine. Clinical pharmacologists usually work in a hospital setting and contribute by leading drug and therapeutics committees, developing and maintaining a drug formulary, assessing new products, creating prescribing guidelines, reviewing medication incidents and promoting evidence-based therapeutics. By contrast, careers in pharmaceutical medicine are usually outside the hospital setting.

In the 20th century, RCP fellows were instrumental in establishing pharmacology as a modern specialty, in its teaching and in the regulation of pharmaceuticals, often combining clinical practice with committee work.

Cyril Arthur Keele (1905–1987) became lecturer in 1938 in the new department of pharmacology at the Middlesex Hospital, where he went on to become professor and to be given a laboratory. At this time, the University of London offered the first UK medical degree to include an examination in applied pharmacology and therapeutics. Keele became president of the section of experimental medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine. He also became a member of the Cohen Committee on the categorisation of drugs, the Poisons Board of the Home Office, the British National Formulary Committee and the committee of the Pharmacological Society.

Frontispiece to Pharmacopoea Almeriana Galeno-chymica. Published Alkmaar, 1723.
Frontispiece to Pharmacopoea Almeriana Galeno-chymica. Published Alkmaar, 1723

Harold Charles Stewart (1906–2001) was one of a band of pioneers who established pharmacology as a separate specialty in medical schools and universities. At St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, Stewart led the new separate department of pharmacology when it emerged in 1950. A steady stream of postgraduate students were trained in research and the courses in pharmacology and therapeutics were popular with students. He maintained his interest in clinical medicine as graded consultant in the diabetic department of St Mary's Hospital and found himself invited to serve in other organisations, including the Asthma Research Council, the Medical Council on Alcoholism, and the Commonwealth Council.

Howard John Rogers (1943–1987) worked as a research scholar in the department of pharmacology at Guy’s Hospital and was awarded a PhD for his work on the cellular action of psychotropic drugs. In 1974, he became the Medical Research Council’s Wellcome travelling fellow in Paul Talalay’s (born 1923) department at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. On returning to Guy’s, he became a lecturer, senior lecturer then reader, and was elected to the chair of clinical pharmacology, which he held for two and a half years until his death at age of 43. Howard was firmly of the opinion that the practice of clinical pharmacology within a medical school required a firm grounding in general medicine, with practical experience in the use of drugs. In addition to his commitment to general medicine, he developed a considerable expertise in cancer chemotherapy. At the time of his death, his particular interest was in the kinetics of cytotoxic drugs and the relationship to cancer chemotherapy.

Jean Georges Domenet (1930–1998) was instrumental in the founding of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine within the three UK colleges of physicians, serving on the foundation committee and later becoming president. He was also chairman of the Association of Medical Advisers to the Pharmaceutical Industry (AMAPI, now the British Association of Pharmaceutical Physicians) in the UK and a member and later chairman of the medical committee of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). Domenet strove to promote the image of pharmaceutical medicine and, through the AMAPI, the ABPI medical committee and the Faculty, to move the discipline to specialty status.

Karen Reid, library manager

Clinical pharmacology is the RCP specialty spotlight for November 2016.

Karen Reid ,
Library manager

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