Whether we are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, antibiotics or vaccines, we expect medicines to be safe, effective and of high quality, no matter where in the world we buy them. The fact that we can use them with confidence is thanks to the European Pharmacopoeia - a reference book that brings together their chemical ‘recipes’ and which is legally binding in the manufacture and supply of medicines for both humans and animals. The system set up by the 1964 Convention evolved over the years and in 1996 the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and Healthcare was created, widening the scope of action.
The first edition of the Pharmacopoeia consisted of 120 texts: today, in its ninth edition, it contains around three thousand, whilst the countries involved have grown from the initial handful to the present 38 plus the European Union. There are also 28 observers, including non-European countries and the World Health Organization.