The collection includes medicines produced by world-famous European pharma companies, major producers in Latvia and small local pharmacies, alongside medicinal preparations and herbariums, representing the wide world of treatment agents. The collection includes the products of Merck, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis, Roche and other major producers of medicines. The history of Latvian pharmacology is also widely represented, from the first chemical pharmaceutics laboratory established in the early 20th century, to the early industrial producers Medfro and Farmazāns, to companies which are currently active such as Grindeks, Olainfarm and Rīgas farmaceitiskā fabrika.
In 1907, following countless experiments, the Nobel prize-winning German doctor and chemist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) was able to synthesise Salvarsan — the first drug effective in treating syphilis. This “salvational arsenium” (a phrase encoded in the drug’s trade name) became the first chemotherapy agent in the history of medicine, and a forerunner of contemporary antibiotics. Salvarsan attacked the treponema bacteria that caused syphilis, without causing substantial harm to the human body. The drug did have serious side effects though and was eventually phased out in the latter half of the 20th century. Myosalvarsan is an improved version of the same compound.
Ornate advertising vessels like these were used by pharmacies as a way to distinguish themselves from the competition. This ceramicware dressed the windows of the Suvorov pharmacy in Riga, on Krišjāņa Barona iela 34 (named Suvorova iela until 1917). Like the street on which it was found, the pharmacy was named in honour of the Baltic governor general Aleksandr Suvorov (1804–1882) — grandson to the famous military commander who had battled Napoleon I.
Since the 17th century, long before Vichy became the de facto capital of occupied France during World War II, the city was known as a popular curative resort. In the first half of the 19th century, the idea was born to “export” the springs by marketing products that contained mineral salts. The most famous of these products are angular Vichy digestive pastilles with mineral salt. Today, they are sold as sweets in a variety of flavours.
These historic household and travel medicine boxes were the forerunners of contemporary first aid kits. They were widespread in the 18th century as a convenient alternative to the former practice of storing drugs in household vessels. This box with medicine bottles from the 19th century is the pride of the Pharmaceutical Museum’s collection of medicine box specimens.