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MATERIA MEDICA, PHARMACY, THERAPEUTICS,

AND COLLATERAL INFORMATION.

VOL. I.

JANUARY, 1882.

No. 1.

ANNOUNCEMENT.

An apology may be due those to whom this pamphlet is sent, for even this very feeble attempt at starting a new journal, when the field of journalism is already so well filled. But a promise is made to the readers that if this new journal—undertaken with much hesitation and diffidence-should prove at any time to have no reason to be, it shall at once cease. As being a mere ephemeral waif, it will be sent gratuitously to all. No subscribers are solicited nor any subscription list kept, nor are exchanges with other journals asked for. It may be issued bi-monthly, or quarterly, or irregularly, or not at all, as the occupations of an otherwise very busy life may determine; and its chief object is, in an informal way, to note down, from time to time, the results of a long experience and observation and the deductions therefrom, together with occasional original work, as time and opportunity may serve. The contents should be accepted, if at all, as information -not as knowledge ;-as material which may be of value only for the moment, or may mature and come to be added to the common stock of knowledge. Ephemerides are things of short life—for a definite or indefinite period, or for the time being, -yet they may not be valueless nor be unimportant as elements in the growth of permanent knowledge. Indeed, they must, in their aggregate, bear an elementary relation to more permanent knowledge. An ephemeris of the materia medica, pharmacy and therapeutics seems to be a very pretentious, ostentatious title, but the subjects are so inseparably related as to form really but one intelligent idea, and that one still incomplete at both extremities. When such a collective subject has been the business of one lifetime, and becomes the expectancy of two other commencing lives educated with special reference to the subject, it does not seem irrational to hope that information may be given which may be interesting and useful to the medical and pharmaceutical professions, since the subject is the very foundation upon, which the utility of these professions to mankind depends. The younger associates in this undertaking may, perhaps, at first do but little of the writing, but they will do much of the work upon which the writing is to be based.

To the professions of Medicine and Pharmacy, then, whatever may be here offered is respectfully dedicated by the writer and his two

sons.

EDWARD R. SQUIBB.

BROOKLYN, January, 1882.

THE STRENGTH OF OPIUM AND THE NEW

PHARMACOPOEIA.

When, in 1848, a law was passed by Congress “ To prevent the importation of adulterated and spurious drugs and medicines,” a careful examination of authorities seems to have been made in order to fix upon a strength below which Opium should not be admitted into the country, and this minimum strength was fixed at 9 per cent. of pure morphia. From that time to the present, this 9 per cent. has been the rule of downward limit for all the United States Custom House examiners, and Opium below that strength has never been lawfully admitted to entry in any Custom House of this country. As the loss of water in drying commercial Opium varies between 17 and 23 per cent., the average loss falls at about 20 per cent., and this is proved to be true by a large experience with the better grades of the drug. Hence Opiums which in the moist commercial condition yield 9 per cent. of pure morphia, when dried and powdered would give 11.25 per cent. pure morphia.

The Pharmacopeia of 1850 is silent upon the strength of its Opium; but that of 1860 prescribes that the officinal Opium shall not contain less than 5 per cent. of morphia. This was a curious mistake to make by so high an authority, for if no Opium could lawfully get into the country which contained less than 9 per cent., it had the inferential force of an invitation to unlawful importations. The Pharmacopæia of 1870 defines that Opium, when dried at 212° F., until it ceases to lose weight, should contain at least 10 per cent. of morphia. This was an improvement in degree on the ruling of 1860, but it was still behind the lawful standard by 1.25 per cent. Now it becomes very important to see what the Pharmacopæia of 1880 will do, since the proposed law of Congress to prevent the adulteration of food and medicine, which, when passed, will become the general model for State laws, makes the Pharmacopæia the only standard. This will then take the place of the present Custom House law, and as all Opium must pass through the Custom House, the law which applies there will be of primary importance. If the Pharmacopæia standard should remain as at present, and the general adulteration law be passed affirming the Pharmacopeia as its standard for all medicines which it contains, then the Custom House examiners will have to abandon their 9 per cent. standard and fall back to 8 per cent. As the average unadulterated Opium of the past thirty years bas not fallen off in strength, but, on the contrary, many of the inferior grades of thirty years ago, such as Constantinople Opium, for example, have so improved, that now they are among the finest Opiums, this would be a serious misfortune to the true interests of medicine in this important article. Standard authorities with much unanimity give the medium dose of Opium as 1 grain=.065 gramme, and a corresponding dose of salts of morphia as about 2 grain=.013 gramme. The salts of morphia in common use, the sulphate, for example, contain about 80 per cent. of pure morphia. This makes the medium dose of pure morphia, -equivalent to two-tenths of a grain of sulphate,—.16 grain=.0104 gramme. Now, if the medium dose of Opium and the medium dose of morphia be compared in equivalence, that is, if one grain of Opium produces about the same effect as '16 grain of morphia, then the Opium must contain about 16 per cent. of morphia. It is highly probable, then, from this and from other considerations of past therapeutical experience, that the authorities who have compiled the therapeutic standards of doses from actual recorded experience have based their statement of dose upon Opium of 16 per cent. strength. It is true that these same authorities give the average percentage strength of good Opium as about 12 to 13 per cent.; but the processes of assay to which these refer are all faulty, and have been so much improved of late years, that it becomes almost certain the older processes failed to give account of all the contained morphia. Hence it may be regarded as extremely probable that the Opium upon which the

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