United States Pharmacopeia Celebrates 200 Years of Building Trust in Medicines, Supplements and Foods

USP public quality standards help build trust in medical breakthroughs and protect patients as the global medicines supply chain grows more complex


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Editor's note: Compelling visuals of USP's past, present and future, including the first U.S. Pharmacopeia and a timeline, are available.

Rockville, MD, January 6, 2020 — Two hundred years ago, medicines in the United States could often be deadlier than the cures they were meant to provide. That began to change in 1820 with the creation of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). January marks the 200th anniversary of USP, now a global leader in building trust in medicines, supplements and foods through public quality standards that help assure quality and safety. 

USP was founded when 11 physicians took action to protect patients from poor-quality medicines. Convening in the Old Senate Chamber in the United States Capitol, they published a national, uniform set of guidelines for medicine quality called the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Since then, the U.S. Pharmacopeia and the National Formulary (USP–NF) has become an essential compendium on drug quality. Today, USP Reference Standards and monographs are legally recognized in the U.S. and relied on in more than 140 countries. 

"Billions of people live longer and healthier lives thanks to medicines they can trust," said Ronald T. Piervincenzi, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, USP. "Our public quality standards build patient, practitioner, and industry confidence by setting clear quality expectations and increasing patient access to vital therapies. Governments in the U.S. and around the world rely on the thousands of USP standards to make sure quality medicines are available to their populations, and that poor-quality and counterfeit drugs do not enter the market."

USP standards are in a continuous process of review and revision based on new evidence and technologies, emerging public health concerns and public requests for revision. Input from expert volunteers is crucial for maintaining these high standards and preserving public trust.

For its first nearly 130 years, the USP–NF was developed entirely by volunteers – scientist and other experts who contributed their knowledge and time. Now, more than 800 independent scientific experts and 1,200 staff around the world support USP's important mission. USP is currently welcoming applications from committed scientists and other health and science professionals passionate about improving public health as a part of its Champions of Trust Initiative.

As a part of its anniversary, USP has also launched Trust TV on its new 200th anniversary hub, which invites leaders in science and health to consider trust's role in helping people live longer and healthier. Practicing physician, researcher, author and Trust TV host Dhruv Khullar talks with guests about some of today's most pressing topics, starting with the challenges of misinformation in healthcare with Adam Berinsky, director of the MIT Political Experiments Research Lab.

USP Convention Convenes in May to Set High-Level Direction

A pivotal moment of the 200th anniversary will be the 2020 Meeting of the USP Convention taking place May 3–6 in Washington, D.C. 

The USP Convention, which convenes every five years, is a unique and powerful network of more than 460 Member Organizations from across the healthcare continuum and around the world, uniting to advance access to quality medicines. In addition to helping shape USP's impact through governance responsibilities such as electing USP's Board of Trustees and Council of Experts, adopting high-level guiding resolutions and amending the USP bylaws, Convention Delegates will participate in dynamic programming at the meeting.

USP Convention Member Organization leaders shared the following:

  • Pharmacists are the last line of defense for patients receiving medications, prescription or nonprescription, and we need to be sure that the products we are dispensing are safe, effective, high quality, genuine products. The quality of pharmaceuticals is something that the American public expects. APhA has a deep appreciation for USP's work in quality," said Thomas E. Menighan, executive vice president and CEO, American Pharmacists Association.
  • "We want our patients to walk out of our offices with the confidence that the medications they take will work, have met quality standards and will lead to better health outcomes. USP and AMA have similar goals: All of our work points to that north star of the betterment of public health," noted Dr. Patrice Harris, president, American Medical Association. 
  • "USP's vision of a world in which all have access to high-quality, beneficial and safe medicines and food aligns well with the ACS vision of improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry. It's the chemists who create new materials, and USP plays a critical role in assuring the quality of those products as they are produced," said Thomas Connelly Jr., executive director and CEO, American Chemical Society.

Exploring Trust in Future Medical Breakthroughs and Worldwide Impact 

In addition to celebrating USP's past and present work, throughout 2020, USP will continue to look at the future of medicine. 

"We're working to help ensure that today's remarkable innovations can be tomorrow's trusted therapies, just as we have done for 200 years," noted Piervincenzi. 

To explore the medical breakthroughs that will shape people's health between now and 2040, and what it will take to build trust in these innovations, USP has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Collective Intelligence and over 100 global leaders in health and science. Through MIT's unique online platform, the Trust CoLab, thought leaders collaborated to develop scenarios on how trust in medicine and healthcare will evolve. USP will release the project's findings on Feb. 25 and discuss the results at TEDMED 2020 in early March.

USP will also launch an innovative Trust eXperience, available at TEDMED 2020 and online at www.usp.org/200 this spring. This self-guided digital visualization experience enables users for the first time to explore the relationships between USP public quality standards and the medicines used to treat humanity's deadliest diseases, ultimately illustrating how quality medicines help people live longer and healthier. Users can also learn what happens without quality standards, investigate the history of standards in the U.S. and meet some of the experts from USP's global health science network.

Anniversary excitement will peak in late fall 2020 with the reopening of the USP Museum in USP's Rockville, Maryland, headquarters. Open to the public, it will offer visitors opportunities to learn about the people, partners and accomplishments of USP.  USP will also publish a commemorative anniversary book in late 2020. 

USP's anniversary observances will take place throughout the year. For additional information and updates, visit www.usp.org/200.

About the USP-NF

The United States Pharmacopeia–National Formulary (USP–NF) includes more than 5,000 monographs for finished drug products (both chemical and biologic), as well as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and excipients. Specifically, the USP–NF includes more than 1,500 API monographs covering 50 therapeutic classes including oncology, cardiovascular, endocrine, infectious disease and mental health drugs. The first printing of the U.S. Pharmacopeia was in 1820. Since then, 43 editions have been published. The latest printed edition was published in 2019. USP–NF is now available to subscribers online.

About USP

USP is an independent scientific organization whose mission is to improve public health through public standards and related programs that help ensure the quality, safety, and benefit of medicines and foods. Through our standards, advocacy and capability building, USP helps increase the availability of quality medicines, supplements and food in the United States and for billions of people worldwide. USP has offices in the United States, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe, including five state-of-the-art laboratories, full-scale training facilities in Ghana and India, online and in-person training courses, and partnerships with national quality control laboratories around the world. For more information, visit www.usp.org.