America’s first licensed pharmacy was established in New Orleans

New Orleans has been on the front lines of many contributions to American history, including significant advancements in the field of pharmacy.

Before the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum opened in 1950 as a museum, the building established its place in U.S. history in 1823 as America’s first official licensed pharmacy. Louis J. Dufilho, Jr., America’s first licensed pharmacist, owned and operated the pharmacy.

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In 1804, Louisiana became the first state with a law requiring anyone who wanted to become a pharmacist to pass a three-hour oral exam administered by a board of reputable pharmacists and physicians.

Dufilho was the first to pass the state licensing exam in 1816, given at the Cabildo in Jackson Square, making his pharmacy the first regulated U.S. apothecary shop.

Prior the the law, a person could apprentice for six months and then compound and sell their own concoctions without any regulations or standards. This led to questionable medical practices and frequent mistakes like incorrect medications and doses when prescribing and dispensing drugs.

Museum curator and docent Owen Ever said that New Orleans’ role in initiating licensing requirements was significant as the inaugural attempt to begin regulation in medicine.

“It is significant that New Orleans had a protocol for trying to prove adequacy before tending to people,” Ever said.

As a port city, New Orleans was plagued with an exceptional number of epidemics during the 19th century. Outbreaks of yellow fever, cholera and malaria were common.

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Pharmacists and physicians attempted to battle these deadly diseases with little success, as their causes were unknown.

​Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic building within the Vieux Carre Historic District, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum showcases its extensive collection and provides interpretive educational programs to present and preserve the rich history of pharmacy and healthcare in Louisiana, according to its website.

For more information about the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, visit the website.

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Shan Bailey

Shan Bailey

Shan Bailey is the digital content producer and on-air personality for FOX 8 Nola Weekend. Shan is a creative storyteller who is passionate about creating compelling content that connects with audiences.