Penicillin: Government












Not only was the pharmaceutical industry's involvement in production integral to increasing penicillin output, but so, too, was the role of various government agencies. Observers such as Florey noted the central contributions made by U.S. drug manufacturers towards penicillin production, finding that " '…too high a tribute cannot be paid to [their] enterprise and energy…[without which] there would certainly not have been sufficient penicillin by D-day in Normandy in 1944 to treat all severe casualties, both British and American' " (Richards, 445).

At the same time, the support of U.S. government agencies, such as the Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Committee on Medical Research (CMR) of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), and the Committee on Chemotherapeutic and Other Agents (COC) of the National Research Council (NRC), proved essential. Specifically, the "…government's prominent role in directing pharmaceutical research, development, and production during WWII" contributed to the creation of "…an enormously successful post-war antibiotics industry" (Neushul, 395).

In September 1943, the War Production Board's Penicillin Producers Industry Advisory Committee reaffirmed the tasks of the various agencies involved in penicillin production. They discussed the "…functions of the government agencies responsible for development of the penicillin program,…[including] policies and programs on clinical studies, chemical research, civilian distribution,…increasing production, [and] production standards…" (Neushul, 385). Organizations like the CMR (Committee on Medicial Research) in particular designated the research studies responsibility to the COC (Committee on Chemotherapeutic and Other Agents), the group that would also deal with civilian requests for the drug. The NRRL (Northern Regional Research Laboratory) would "continue its assay work on commercial production of penicillin, a task which would eventually be passed to the Food and Drug Administration" (Neushul, 385). The OSRD (Office of Scientific Research and Development) would "…distribute penicillin for clinical and chemical studies and…organize, promote, finance and disseminate research on the synthesis of penicillin" (Swann, 156). The collaboration between these federal organizations was central in the effort to mass-produce penicillin during WWII.


The role of the federal government is not limited to traditional regulatory or research organizations. The section on the military's role in penicillin illustrates one alternative means of government regulation. [Others include...]


Given the federal bureaucracy's fondness for acronyms, it is helpful to have a glossary of terms. Additional information about each of the organizations can be found be following the links:

  • USDA-United States Department of Agriculture
  • NRRL-Northern Regional Research Laboratory
  • OSRD-Office of Scientific Research and Development
  • CMR-Committee on Medical Research
  • NRC-National Research Council
  • COC-Committee on Chemotherapeutic and Other Agents
  • WPB-War Production Board
  • OPRD-Office of Production Research and Development
  • OCPD-Office of Civilian Penicillin Distribution