AJP: 130 years at the heart of pharmacy

A lot has changed in the world since the AJP first landed in people’s mailboxes back in 1886…

Now – following the demise of The Bulletin – the oldest continuously published magazine in Australia, the AJP remains the voice and informant of community pharmacy in our nation.

In fact AJP long predates both the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (though not the state branches of the latter). It has covered all the main clinical, political, social and regulatory developments that have impacted the profession.

And the journal itself has changed out of all recognition. If its founding fathers came to our office today they would be amazed at the content, and probably more than a little gobsmacked by our newly launched daily email newsletter!

Here we present a look back at 130 years of the history of AJP, and 130 years of the history of pharmacy.


In the beginning

The Australasian Journal of Pharmacy began life as the journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria, a role it occupied till 1920 – despite the continent-wide claim of its title (in fact it also covered New Zealand as well).

It would, in fact, remain based in Melbourne for almost 90 years.

The first editor Harry Shillinglaw was a pharmacist, and had served as the first registrar of the Pharmacy Board of Victoria (he was initially paid 200 pounds per year)

His successors as editor through till almost the end of the 1960s were all pharmacists.



However, AJP’s roots even predate its actual founding under this name in 1886.

From 1878, the PSV had provided its members (who totalled 120 in 1876) with a monthly copy of the British Chemist and Druggist, containing a colonial supplement.

In April 1883 an Australasian Chemist and Druggist developed out of the colonial supplement.

This title was incorporated into the first AJP in January 1886.


Going national

While AJP had always claimed in its title to provide nationwide focus, it remained a largely Victorian title till January 1920 when the first federal AJP was published.

This, like many other progressive organisational moves in pharmacy in this period, was a result of the efforts of Charles Butchers, its editor.

Butchers was an instrumental voice in the formation of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia as the profession banded together to lock out foreign chains such as Boots.

Butchers, later to become the Guild’s first federal secretary, managed to band together Pharmaceutical Defence Ltd (still the owners of AJP), the NSW Association of Master Pharmacists and the Metropolitan Chemists Association of Victoria, along with the various state societies to stump up funds to form the Australasian Pharmaceutical Publicity Company, or APPCO, to take over publication of the title from the PSV.

After the formation of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia it took over the APPCo board seats of the Metropolitan Chemists and Master Pharmacists, who were by now defunct.

This structure would remain in place till the 1980s (aside from the state societies being subsumed into the PSA in 1976).

Charles Butchers’ sudden death in 1941 created a mini-crisis as his deputy FC (Claude) Kent had been seconded to the Defence Department for war service as executive officer of the Medical Equipment Control Committee.

He was eventually released from these duties, and installed as secretary of the PSV, registrar of the Pharmacy Board of Victoria AND editor of AJP.


Moving to news

When Claude Kent retired in 1968, there was a decision made to change the focus of AJP, and a professional journalist, Jim Dickinson, was given the editorship.

His tenure saw the birth of topical news in the publication, and also saw the name modernised to the Australian Journal of Pharmacy.

Dickinson’s pioneering of a more topical, news-based approach saw the title gradually alter its focus.

In May 1975, editor Stuart Dickson (who had been poached the previous year from rival Pharmacy Trade – now Pharmacy News), introduced a modern news magazine format.

However clinical information also remained vital to AJP, with the Current Drug Information section remaining under long-time contributor Professor Jack Thomas.


Structural change

At the same time, the national bodies assumed the responsibilities of their state counterparts on the APPco board. The Pharmacy Board of New Zealand remained involved till 1960.

Until the late 1980s the APPco constitution required equal board representation from its three member bodies: PSA, Guild and PDL.

Eventually the other two groups were eased out, leaving PDL as the sole owner of APPco.

In 1986, then-editor Stuart Dickson talked of the ten year period of change which saw the title move to a magazine style format, and the fear of commercialisation expressed by many readers to moves such as the introduction of colour photographs, increasing the number of advertisements per issue and particularly the policy of commercial cover concepts, still a feature of AJP.

He said these were a necessity for survival and prosperity.

An interesting halfway period saw a mix of commercial and talking head, or event covers. In 1975, a break from heavy political covers saw film stars Diane Cilento and Margaux Hemingway feature on the cover!


Sole ownership

AJP finally cut its ties from the Guild and PSA in 2000, with APPCo now under the sole ownership of PDL.

The move was announced by the PDL chairman John Scown in AJP, saying “the AJP can continue to present its aim even more strongly to be the journal that presents a balanced view of all aspects of pharmacy encompassing both professional and commercial matters of interest to pharmacists.

“Considerable threats have emerged from outside to the products of pharmacy organisations. The previous ownership structure posed certain conflicts of interest when each organisation developed strategies to meet these threats.

“The sole ownership by PDL removes some of those constraints so pharmacy organisations can vigorously meet these challenges.” 


The move to online

The next step in AJP’s evolution saw it meeting the challenges of the new computerised world. The current AJP website was launched in March 2015, and the first email newsletters kicked off the brand new digital version of the title. 

And now in 2016, AJP has moved fully into the digital world with the launch of AJP Daily – a daily email newsletter. This year we have also taken over popular online forum AusPharm, and launched an exciting new AJP forum to allow us even more interaction and discussion with and from our readers.

An exciting future looms as we combine the various media now available to provide community pharmacy with the information it needs to know.

Just as the founders of AJP did right back in 1886.

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