Lithuanian University of the Health Sciences, Lithuanian Museum of the History of Medicine and Pharmacy, Kaunas (Lithuania)
Comparative Analysis of Pharmaceutical Recipes Registered at the Vilnius University Pharmacy in 1801–1802
Prescription registry books are one of the most reliable sources of information about medical therapeutics. In the Vilnius University Library, there is a prescription book dating back to 1801–1802. It contains recipes written by 22 doctors, including prominent figures such as Joannes Lobenwein (1758–1820), the dean of the Faculty of Medicine; a famous chemistry professor and clinician Jędrzej Śniadecki (1768–1838) and a popular Vilnius doctor Jacob Liboschitz (1741–1827).
The aim of this study was to assess the similarities and differences between the medicines prescribed by Lobenwein, Śniadecki and Liboschitz; to evaluate whether the chemistry professor Śniadecki was more likely to treat his patients with more chemical drugs than his colleagues; and to see which medical doctrine they followed.
The following were our results. In all, 129 prescriptions by Śniadecki, 121 by Lobenwein, and 74 by Liboschitz were analyzed. To all of their patients the doctors prescribed precisely measured doses of medications, mostly pills and powders, which the patients themselves took in teaspoons or cups. Many medications contained strong alkaloids and other chemicals, therefore, inaccurate dosing could have been dangerous. All of the doctors still used alchemical signs in their recipes. Lobenwein and Liboschitz still prescribed Theriaca Andromachi, a legendary medicine known since ancient times, but which was being viewed more and more sceptically by other physicians. Chemical ingredients made up about 20 % of the recipes prescribed by chemistry professor Śniadecki. This percentage was similar to that of the other two physicians, and only differed in the variety of chemicals prescribed. Śniadecki mentioned mercury in 6 prescriptions. Lobenwein did not prescribe any mercury to his patients and Liboschitz prescribed it only once. Every fifth recipe by Śniadecki and Lobenwein contained opium. Liboschitz prescribed it even more often – in every fourth recipe. However, Śniadecki prescribed more stronger medications together with opium than his colleagues.
We can conclude that the youngest of the doctors, Śniadecki, seemed to be the most modern in his practice. He used a wider range of chemicals and refused to prescribe medicines that were already being removed from European pharmacopoeias. It is known from the literature that Liboschitz was a supporter of the iatromechanical doctrine, whereas Śniadecki was a follower of the Brunonian medical doctrine. This is also confirmed by the medicines they prescribed, which, according to K. Sprengel’s classification, often had a stimulating effect.