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Charity in the lab

· Vatican Pharmacy contributes to needs of immigrants ·

On a red-topped white jar, an adhesive label reads: Benzyl benzoate 20%. Healthcare professionals recognize it as one of the most effective treatments for scabies. At the Vatican Pharmacy, it is also seen as a new way to practice charity and continue serving people in need, without distinction of race, language, age or religion. The jar, in fact, contains an ointment prepared in the the pharmacy’s own laboratory to meet the needs of the thousands of immigrants arriving each day in Italy.

The preparation is being produced at the request of the Office of Papal Charities, which then sets to the task of distributing the medicine by periodically visiting reception centres in Rome to bring the Pope’s charity to the Diocese’s the needy. Recently in one of the city’s most crowded centres, volunteers from the Almoner’s Office delivered 50 kg of the scabies preparation, along with 100 packages of antibiotics and antihistamines and 50 antifungal salves.

The ointment is one of the galenical preparations that are made every day in the Vatican Pharmacy’s laboratory. Copper stills and hand scales have been set aside and modern technology has taken over. Indeed, the laboratory was recently renovated, while remaining faithful to the time-honoured pharmacological tradition of the Fatebenefratelli, who gave this institution its start in the Vatican in 1874.

In addition to the dreaded scabies mite, the Vatican Pharmacy is also on the front line in the fight against the less harmful, but no less annoying, mosquito. The Pharmacy has created a “two-in-one” — dual functioning, so to speak — spray lotion: it serves both to repel the bothersome insects and to soothe the aftereffects of their sting. It contains natural essential oils, such as citronella, geranium, cloves and lavender.

Within the context of rediscovering the potential of the pharmaceutical lab is a new series of products, complete with colourful labels bearing a photo of St Peter’s Basilica and the name Farmacia vaticana. Incorporating phyto (plant-based) compounds, these products include hand cream, aftershave lotion, as well as cream and powder for pressure wounds, just to name a few. These are only the first that Br Rafael Cenizo Ramírez, Director of the Vatican Pharmacy, has decided to make available to the public, to provide high quality products of proven therapeutic effectiveness.

The new phytotherapeutic line of augments the series of products already produced by the Vatican Pharmacy. These include liquid preparations, known as “mother tinctures” extracted from fresh medicinal plants, to which modern phytotherapy attributes great importance for the treatment of various diseases. At the moment there are ten tinctures available, seven of which are single-extract products (Burdock, Birch, Echinacea, Horsetail, Propolis, Butcher’s Broom and Dandelion), and three of which are mixtures of multiple tinctures (Valerian, Hawthorn, and Passion flower, to improve rest; Centella, Butcher’s Broom and Birch, to fight cellulite; Cranberry, Pilosella, and Uva-ursi, for urinary tract infections). There is meticulous attention to detail both in the quality of the tinctures used and the product information supplied, especially with regard to instructions for use.

Thus the laboratory produces not only physician-prescribed galenical preparations, but also stock preparations. And since overall wellness is also concerned, there are of course several cosmetic items: the products most recently introduced include hand cream with Hyaluronic acid and a moisturizing aftershave cream. (nicola gori

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 25, 2018

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