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Warner, Inventor of the Sugar Coated Pill, Revolutionized Drug Delivery

Published on December 14, 2020

William Warner, PCP 1856Today Pfizer is perhaps the biggest name in American pharmaceutical manufacturing. Before Pfizer was what it is today, there was Warner-Lambert. And before there was a Warner-Lambert, there was William Warner and Company.

William Warner’s name is less well-known today than that of Charles Pfizer, but Pfizer can’t lay claim to having invented the sugar-coated pill, Warner’s major contribution to the profession, and a game-changer in the administration of drugs ever since it debuted in 1857. William Warner founded his company out of his own small pharmacy storefront which he had operated in on Girard Avenue in the years after his graduation from PCP. Until this point, if pills and tablets coated at all, they were coated in gelatin, and medicines containing alkaloids remained particularly bitter. Warner originally hand-dipped the pills in sugar, then devised a pan he could shake to coat multiple. Eventually the process was automated, and Warner’s business quickly became a major concern.

By the 1870s, William Warner and Company had operations and storefronts in London, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Portland, and Minneapolis. The solubility and uniformity of the pills was also a key component.

As a trained pharmacist, Warner combined the science of drug compounding and formulation with a keen eye for aesthetics and flavor. Coatings today have advanced far, and can control the timed-release of drugs, among other properties. 

Categories: Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Alumni, Proven Everywhere, History, Bicentennial