The origins of psychiatric pharmacy trace back to the early 1970s with pioneers such as Dr. Glen Stimmel and R. Lee Evans practicing in the acute psychiatric setting. At that time, psychotropic medications commonly used to treat serious mental illness (e.g., Thorazine®, Elavil®, Parnate®) were considered fairly effective, but were associated with significant side effects. Additionally, during this time, little was known about the risk of drug interactions. Working alongside psychiatrists in a consultative role, pharmacists provided drug treatment recommendations to the physicians and closely monitored the effects of these medications. Research during this period conclusively demonstrated that when pharmacists participated in this medication process, consumers had fewer adverse reactions and were able to be discharged from treatment facilities sooner than expected.
At about the same time Drs. Stimmel and Evans were demonstrating the value of pharmacist services in psychiatry, Schools of Pharmacy throughout the country were making revolutionary changes to core curricula that ultimately led to the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. As school faculty and administrators became aware of the promising role for pharmacists in mental health, they increased emphasis on psychopharmacology in Pharm.D. programs. Eventually, many psychiatric facilities and institutions created specialized residencies and fellowships in psychiatric pharmacy, enabling postdoctoral students to hone their research and clinical skills under the guidance of an experienced psychiatric pharmacist.
Through the innovation and dedication of these psychiatric pharmacists, the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS) recognized psychiatric pharmacy as a specialty beginning in 1992. This designation of Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist (BCPP) acknowledges the vast need for psychiatric pharmacists as well as the specialized knowledge essential to practice in this area.
Neurologic pharmacy is a closely related field, as many of the same medications are used in both psychiatric and neurologic disorders. However, the roots of neurologic pharmacy practice may be traced back to phenytoin, one of the first medications used to treat neurologic conditions.1 With its unique drug properties and problematic side-effects, pharmacists stepped up to help physicians use this medication appropriately. Pharmacists specializing in neurologic medications therefore became an asset to manage patients receiving this medication. With that, the specialty of neurologic pharmacy began. Today, pharmacists specializing in neurology may also choose to become a BCPP.
Reference: 1. Welty TE. Neurology and neurosurgery clinical pharmacy practice: ignorance, phobia, or progress? The Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2006;40(12):2235-7.