Since the dawn of human civilization, medicine has made incredible strides. Previously fatal illnesses now have effective treatments. In 1550 B.C., the ancient Egyptians, according to Homer’s mythology, had invented over 500 pharmaceutical formulas, most of which relied on spiritual healing rather than chemicals to achieve their curative benefits.

Although the pharmaceutical industry can trace its roots back to the Middle Ages, it did not begin to flourish until the 19th century. The development of effective pharmaceuticals for human health did not begin until much later in the 18th century, even though the scientific revolution of the time had its ideals of rationalism.

German physician Friedrich Sertürner developed the first effective medicinal (pharmaceutical) treatment in 1804. In his lab, he isolated morphine, the active ingredient in opium, and called it after the Greek deity of sleep.

With its origins in the 19th century, the pharmaceutical and biotech industry of the 21st century has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Let’s see how it has changed through the ages.


The pharmaceutical industry can trace its roots back to the apothecaries and pharmacies of the Middle Ages, which sold a wide variety of cures based on centuries’ worth of folk knowledge.

But the foundations of the industry as we know it now may be traced back to the second part of the nineteenth century. Even though rationalism and experimentation were popularized during the scientific revolution of the 17th century and manufacturing was revolutionized during the industrial revolution of the late 18th century, it took until the early 20th century for these two ideas to be combined for the benefit of human health.

It’s possible that the German business Merck was the first to use this approach. Originally established in Darmstadt as a pharmacy in 1668, Heinrich Emanuel Merck began the company’s shift to an industrial and scientific concern in 1827 by producing and selling alkaloids.


Pharmaceutical medicine has evolved as a medical science specialty during the past three decades, with the goal of improving patient and community health through the research, development, assessment, registration, monitoring, temperature controlled packaging, and medical marketing of pharmaceuticals. Clinical and healthcare professionals, the pharmaceutical industry, and the government find common ground in pharmaceutical medicine. 

Although the lines between pharmaceutical medicine and other areas of medicine are blurry, there are some core tenets that everyone involved in the industry agrees on: the safety and well-being of research subjects in clinical trials, drug translation into new medicines, and understanding the safety profile of medicines and the benefit-risk balance.

Pharmaceutical medicine is a field in its own right, with its professional ethics and body of knowledge based mostly on clinical science, as well as its dedicated group of specialists who share a common vision for the future. Physicians specializing in pharmaceuticals may work in the private sector, government agencies, or clinical research organizations. 

Still, they have strong relationships with the academic medical community and their primary and secondary care medical counterparts. Because of its status as a postgraduate medical specialty, pharmaceutical medicine has its research methodologies, professional and academic societies, journals, and texts; it also embraces new technologies and regulations in its quest to demonstrate medicines’ efficacy, safety, and effectiveness.

In countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), Ireland (IE), Switzerland (CH), and Mexico (MX), pharmaceutical medicine is officially recognized as a valid medical subspecialty. Standards of practice and professionalism in the competency, care, and conduct applied to their job and of expanding public awareness and accountability underline this formal acknowledgment and show why it is necessary to have specialists in pharmaceutical medicine.