John Urquhart was born in 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His 50-year career focused on improving medical treatment through innovative pharmaceutical development and improved large-scale monitoring of drug actions.
As a graduate of Harvard Medical School (1959) he held fellowships in physiology and obstetrics and interned in surgery at Massachussetts General Hospital. He was an investigator at the National Heart Institute at NIH, and held professorships in physiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and in biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California.
In 1971, John joined ALZA Corporation, founded by Alejandro Zaffaroni to advance medical treatment by developing new technologies to deliver drugs so as to enhance their efficacy and reduce side effects. As Chief Scientist and President of ALZA Research, John collaborated with talented colleagues to devise innovative dosage forms such as transdermal patches and controlled release oral products that became models for industry-wide development of safer and more effective pharmaceuticals. These products were the first to be labeled for rate of drug release rather than by drug content.
His next focus was on the need to improve treatment through enhanced compliance with drug regimens and better post-marketing surveillance of prescription drugs. In 1984 he and colleagues set up a team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands to develop methods to obtain complete, reliable and objective data on the beneficial and harmful actions of drugs in large populations. This group evolved into Maastricht’s center for pharmacoepidemiologic research. John was appointed as the first professor of pharmacoepidemiology there. In 1985 he founded APREX Corporation to develop electronically monitored pharmaceutical packaging to measure patient compliance with dosing regimens. APREX was acquired by AARDEX Group and finally in 2012 by MWV Corporation. He remained associated with this enterprise in key research and executive positions.
John´s achievements are reflected in his authorship of over 100 published papers, 40 patents, and a co-authored book (Risk Watch : the Odds of Life). Other honors included : 1962 Upjohn award, The Endocrine Society (with F.E. Yates, A.L. Herbst, and D.W. Glenister) ; 14 th Bowditch Lecturer, American Physiological Society (1969) ; President, Biomedical Engineering Society (1976) ; Doctorate honoris causa, University of Utrecht ; John Urquhart Fellowship Program established by the Dutch Chapter of the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology ; Distinguished Alumnus Award, Rice University ; Fellow, International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology ; Fellow, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh ; Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science ; Honorary Fellow, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom.
In 1996, Professor Urquhart initiated the first LowLands symposium on medication adherence, which later became the European Society for Patient Adherence, Compliance, and Persistence (ESPACOMP).