A capsule in time

A capsule in time

A visit to the National Museum of Veterinary Medications reminds you of all those great ideas that got shelved
Nov 01, 2011

I was just about to administer a dose of vaccine when, for some unknown reason, I took a close look at the bottle. Uh, oh! The expiration date just passed. Something drastic must have happened at midnight because the vaccine that was a lifesaver yesterday was now deemed ineffective.

What could have happened to cause the instantaneous change from priceless to worthless? This brought several other questions to mind. Did the vaccine expire three hours later in California? What about Hawaii? Did the manufacturers remember to include leap year in their calculation? I decided to proceed with the inoculation anyway. (You see, the patient was an Akita, and I figured that it was probably still yesterday in Japan.)

Afterward, I got to thinking that it had been quite a while since my last visit to the National Museum of Veterinary Medications. It was time for a field trip.

The museum is conveniently located in the back half of the top cabinet above the refrigerator in the treatment room of my clinic.

Directions: In order to access the museum, proceed to the laboratory area. Take the stool that is in front of the blood chemistry machine and push it into the treatment room. (The stool is on swivel casters.) Place two thick phone books on top and position the entire rig just in front of the refrigerator. Climb aboard carefully. You are now in position to open the top cabinet.

The first thing you will see as you encounter the archives in the museum is the "Medication Hall of Shame." There are 12 bottles here. None has ever been opened, and all were acquired the same way. In each case I had ordered the bottle after returning from a continuing education seminar. I always come home from such outings all fired up about some medication or test that the speaker recommended. The medication then sits unused on a shelf for a few years, where it eventually becomes outdated. A few years after that, I finally give up and move it to the museum.

On this particular field trip, I noticed that one of the bottles had actually been opened. (How did that happen?)

I left the Hall of Shame and moved deeper into the museum. (This can be accomplished by changing to a tip-toe stance atop the swivel caster-stool phone book access medium.) Here, next to the glass syringes and re-usable rubber gloves, is where truly effective medications of days gone by can be found. These were the combination of ingredient pills and injections that the FDA no longer allows. You may remember some of these—heart medications with diuretics, hormones and digitalis all in one pill. Dermatitis pills with steroids, antibiotics and tranquilizers all mixed together. (Those were the good old days.)

I looked at the labels. There were no expiration dates. Maybe some of this stuff was still good. I tried opening one of the bottles. I couldn't budge the lid. Another looked like something was growing inside it. A third bottle was stuck to the cabinet. Apparently something had leaked from inside.

I would have continued exploring, but the lab tech came and demanded her stool back. I felt it best to get down before the lab tech and gravity conspired to bring about my downfall.

And so, my field trip ended. However, if you would like to take a trip down memory lane, I'm proud to announce that the museum is open five days a week, and admission is free. Reservations are required in advance, and you must bring your own stool and phone books.

Dr. Obenski lives in Zionsville, Pa.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Obenski, visit http://dvm360.com/obenski