Catherine (Cai) Guise-Richardson

Catherine (Cai) Guise-Richardson

Catherine (Cai) Guise-Richardson

Glenn E. and Barbara Hodsdon Ullyot Scholar, 2010–2011

Catherine (Cai) Guise-Richardson holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. from Iowa State University, a B.I.S. from the University of Waterloo, and a B.A. from the University of Toronto. Her doctoral work in the history of science and technology focused on the psychopharmaceutical Valium (diazepam). In 2010 she published articles on Charles Goodyear, one of the inventors of vulcanization, and on using patents in teaching history.

Guise-Richardson’s work explores the dynamics of conceptual and practical innovation and the ongoing development of discoveries and ideas in the scientific, industrial, legal, and public spheres. Her current research interests include mental health and pharmaceuticals as well as genetics and gender in the late-19th-century life sciences. Her current book projects are a history of Valium entitled Emotional Aspirin and a history of telogony tentatively titled Lord Morton’s Mare’s Nest.

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Current Research

The development of pharmaceuticals with pronounced, specific, and useful effects on the human brain and central nervous system arguably heralded the rise of modern psychiatry. Historians, as well as chemists and physicians, generally accept chlorpromazine (CPZ) as the landmark chemical. First synthesized in 1950, CPZ gained public notice after results of clinical tests were published in 1952 (J. Hamon, J. Paraire, and J. Velluz, “Remarques sur l’action du 4560 R.P. sur l’agitation maniaque,” Annales Medico-Psychologiques 110(pt. 1):331–335). Animal tests of the drug had shown a pronounced ability to modify the behavior of rats, which stopped reacting to unpleasant stimuli. At Hôpital Sainte-Anne in Paris, 38 institutionalized and severely psychotic patients were injected with the compound. The patients, many of whom appeared to be avoiding interaction with a world they found overstimulating and unpleasant, quickly began behaving more “normally.” They acknowledged and interacted with interns and nurses and regained an interest in self-care (using toilets, washing, dressing). Considering that psychiatric institutions at the time focused on long-term housing of the severely mentally ill, and only to a minimal extent treatment, the simple fact that CPZ reduced manic behavior created within a few years near revivalist belief among institutional psychiatrists in the need for its widespread use. In the United States, Smith, Kline & French (SKF) gained the license to produce and market the substance, which they sold under the trade name Thorazine.

In general, there are two major and ongoing debates regarding CPZ/Thorazine. One focuses on the process of discovery and is mainly a debate over who should get the glory for identifying the drug’s utility. The other debate focuses on the impact of CPZ/Thorazine’s introduction. Was it responsible for a major decline in the number of institutionalized psychiatric patients? Was the drug itself the important therapy, or did it simply calm patients sufficiently for the relatively novel techniques of short-term behavioral therapy and group therapy to help effect cure or remission of symptoms?

My project engages these debates and will extend knowledge of the early psychopharmaceuticals by examining the role of SKF in developing and marketing CPZ as Thorazine and a related compound as Stelazine. Some of my research questions relate directly to existing debates. How can knowledge of events at SKF improve our knowledge of the discovery of CPZ? What types of pharmaceuticals was SKF trying to develop and screen for? What types of work outside the company were considered noteworthy? Is the traditional story of a wobbly but single line from synthesis to identification or potential use in psychiatry appropriate, or is it possible to identify a network of related research projects? In marketing their products to psychiatrists, did SKF promote use of Thorazine and Stelazine as cures in and of themselves or as adjunctive therapies, mainly useful in creating a situation where talk and behavioral therapies could be successfully applied? Did the marketing approach change over time?  Other questions delve into important and untouched areas. How did SKF shape physician education through booklets, magazines, and other ephemera designed specifically for doctors?

This project draws on my existing research into Valium. If Thorazine is considered a first-generation psychopharmaceutical and major tranquilizer, then Valium would count as a second-generation and minor tranquilizer. Laboratory and clinical testing of Valium often involved comparing its effects to those of Thorazine. I come to this project already immersed in the contemporary medical terminology, pharmacological methods of testing tranquilizers and sedatives, and general knowledge of psychiatry during the 1950s through the 1970s.

At the Othmer Library I will work primarily with the Alan Klawans collection of pharmaceutical marketing ephemera and with the Glenn E. Ullyot collection, which overlap: both deal with pharmaceuticals produced by SKF in the late 1950s through the 1970s. Klawans played a key role in marketing compounds for which Ullyot oversaw the discovery, testing, and development. Building on my existing research into psychopharmaceutical development, testing, and marketing, my project involves examination of drug development and marketing of Thorazine and Stelazine at SKF between the 1950s and 1970s.

CHF resources provide a unique opportunity to examine the history of Thorazine (arguably the first modern psychopharmaceutical) and Stelazine (one of the first efforts to market major tranquilizers for ongoing use outside hospitals). The Klawans collection includes the first 45 issues of Psychiatric Reporter, a magazine produced by SKF as part of its psychopharmaceutical marketing program.  Advertising is recognized as playing a strong role in physician education and prescribing behavior; the abstracts of published articles contained in Psychiatric Reporter offer unique insight into the subtle dynamics of physician education by pharmaceutical companies. The unique collection of ephemera, a substantial component of which deals with continued promotion of psychopharmaceuticals, documents ongoing efforts to differentiate SKF psychopharmaceuticals from those of other corporations. I plan to interview Alan Klawans (who has already agreed to a series of interviews) and work with his collection in order to prepare an article discussing SKF’s marketing of Thorazine and Stelazine to physicians. Although Matthew Hersch’s “Calm, but Still Alert: Marketing Stelazine to Disturbed America, 1958–1980” (Pharmacy in History 50 [2008],140–148) appears to cover the Stelazine side of this topic, use of materials at the Othmer Library make it possible to examine the subtler aspects of physician education, such as providing abstracts of articles in medical journals, as well as the more overt aspects of pharmaceutical marketing. The Ullyot collection includes items that will shed light on the intricacies of the drug-development process, particularly speaking to the network of projects within a company and the complex of projects worldwide that create a broad program of research leading to development of a class of related molecules. As part of his work, Ullyot reported on research at foreign laboratories and institutes just before Thorazine was marketed. What work he considered important or promising enough to report may offer new insight into the contested question of how the first generation of modern psychopharmaceuticals was developed.