The Vatican’s Drugstore, between Tradition and Innovation

Tribute to the Order of Saint John of God

Audience aux frères de la pharmacie, fr Eligiusz à g. © L'OsservatAudience to the Drugstore's Brothers © L'Osservatore Romanoore Romano

Audience to the Drugstore's Brothers © L'Osservatore Romano

ROME, AUGUST 24, 2017 (Zenit.org).- On presenting the Vatican’s drugstore, in its Italian edition of Saturday, August 19, 2017, L’Osservatore Romano paid tribute to the generations of Religious of the Order of Saint John of God, who have carried out this service since 1874.

From restructuring the perfumery to the equipping of the laboratory “with modern technologies, it’s the whole drugstore that’s being updated as it grows. The renovations are in response to the needs of very numerous clients.

Here is ZENIT’s translation of the article that appeared in the Vatican daily in intalian.

It is one of the most frequented drugstores in the world. Between 2,000 and 2,500 people come into the Vatican’s drugstore every day, a flow that doesn’t stop during the summer period, said Brother Thomas Binish Mulackal, its Director. 50% of the clients are residents, employees of the Vatican and their families. The other half comes from abroad. Many go to the drugstore to buy medicines and products that are found in other countries’ trade, including extra-European, but not in Italian dispensaries. Some 42,9000 products are available, supplied by Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany and also the United States.

Dynamism and Innovations

For Brother Thomas, the present objective of the service is twofold: “to continue the dynamic management already launched by his predecessor, Brother Rafael Cenizo. Then to ensure continual improvement through innovations in keeping with the needs of the times.”

The present enlargement and restructuring of the store will make it more functional and more adapted to our times.

In regard to sales on the Internet, for the time being it’s not an issue of the organization. “ An agency, attentive to the ethical-social quality of medicine can’t ignore the economic aspect in the search for balance. Not excluded in the future, especially for clients that can’t go to the drugstore, we will also offer an Internet service giving it the proper weight. An in-depth study will be necessary and the priority will be to keep our identity.”

The laboratory, which has been functional since the beginning, has benefitted from “innovations due to the constant requests of our clients. At present, it’s small, but in a few months it will be enlarged and equipped with modern technologies. In particular, it prepares specific products with prescriptions requested by doctors. The service is by orders and two or three days are necessary to prepare them. At present we have about 25 products of our brand that we produce in the laboratory.”

The perfumery is an integral part of the drugstore. “We have been growing for some years,” specifies the Religious. “These days we are finishing the first part of the work of the store’s restructuring. We will launch the second part on September 18. Then, at the beginning of next year, the section will be restructured that is concerned with the sale of hygiene products, which we hope to conclude for Easter.”

The Devotion of a Hospitaller Order

The particular imprint of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God has always characterized the Vatican’s drugstore: “It’s not possible to efface the memory of the one who gave life to a structure. The Brothers were the initiators of the drugstore. They arrived in 1874, with Brother Eusebio Frommen, at the request of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, on behalf of Pius IX. Eighteen years later, the first Community established itself in a stable way and was lodged on the ground floor of Saint Damasus Court until 1917, exactly a century ago, when the drugstore was transferred to more adequate premises, some steps from Saint Anne’s entrance. Finally, in 1929 it was welcomed into larger headquarters in the Belvedere Palace, where it is at present.”

Up to this day, the Religious have ensured a service in the drugstore as well as in health management. Consequently, the small group of Fatebenefratelli continues this ancient tradition, symbolized by the elixir of China, which it is still possible to buy in the drugstore, made for the first time by Brother Diodado Carmurani — one of the most popular pharmacists of the last century.

Today six fellow-Brothers work in the drugstore. They come from Asia, Africa and Europe. It’s a pastoral and technical-professional presence, which benefits from the collaboration of several qualified laymen.

© ZENIT’s translation

Virginia M. Forrester

Copyright 2017

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