Jerry Halperin, who served as the CEO and executive vice president of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) from 1990 to 2000, passed away after a long illness on February 10, 2015, at the age of 77. His belief in a globalized medical community drove his career, and he worked tirelessly to create a constantly evolving landscape for improved drug quality, quality standards, and the (re)inclusion of herbs and dietary supplements into the scope of USP.
Born on February 21, 1937, in Paterson, New Jersey, Halperin earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Rutgers University in 1958. After graduation, he began what would be a 25-year career in public service in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the US Public Health Service (PHS). He decided to continue his education and earned a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1961. While at Johns Hopkins he met his wife, Barbara Hott; they married in 1963.
While working for PHS, Halperin was transferred around the country. In Boston, Massachusetts, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Sloan Fellow and earned his second master’s degree, in the science in management. In 1974, his family made one last move to Maryland, where he worked for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When he retired from the FDA in 1983, he was acting director of the FDA Office of Drugs in the combined National Center of Drugs and Biologics with the rank of Rear Admiral; at the time, he was the fourth PHS officer in pharmacy to achieve that distinction.
Halperin’s retirement from public service did not indicate a retirement from his career. In 1983, after leaving the FDA, he entered the private sector and served as vice president of technology for product development, clinical, regulatory affairs, and quality assurance at CIBA Consumer Pharmaceuticals, a division of CIBA-Geigy, Inc. (now Novartis). He worked at CIBA until 1990, when he assumed the mantle of leadership at USP. While CEO of USP, he advanced the global reach and impact of the organization through many programs including expanded compendial standards (e.g., for multi-vitamins and botanicals), agreements with other pharmacopeias and regulatory authorities, exchanges of scientific experts, and improved stakeholder relationships. He also served as a member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Panel on the International Pharmacopoeia and Pharmaceutical Preparations and was an expert member of the board of pharmaceutical sciences of the International Federation of Pharmacy.
“Jerry Halperin’s leadership at USP can be characterized as the beginning of the globalization of USP,” said USP Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer V. Srini Srinivasan, PhD. “Recognizing the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), he reached out to key stakeholders to participate in the compendial revision process. The seeds of globalization sown by Jerry Halperin were nourished by his successor Roger Williams, MD (2000-2014), who continued the globalization by establishing USP sites in Brazil, China, and India, which fulfilled the dream of Jerry Halperin to be in close alignment with those countries.”
Upon resigning from USP in 2000, Halperin once again found that full retirement did not suit him, and he became the CEO of the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI). When he left FDLI in 2006, he finally assumed full retirement in Silver Spring, Maryland. He received numerous honors throughout his long career, including the Rutgers Alumnus of the Year Award in 1981; four honorary doctoral degrees; induction into the Italian Pharmacopeia in 1992; the Remington Honor Medal from the American Pharmacists Association in 2001; and the Distinguished Service Award from the Drug Information Association in 2001.
“Jerry was a great visionary and leader for USP,” said American Botanical Council Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “He saw the potential for the growth of herbal dietary supplements after the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) and moved quickly to invite many of us in the herbal community to participate in USP’s new-found mission to include the development of standards and test methods for herbal dietary supplements into USP’s mission and authoritative publications. Jerry was well-aware that the very earliest editions of the USP from the 1820s and on included mainly botanical medicines. He saw the pendulum swinging back in the herb direction, and he positioned USP to re-assert its previous role in the herbal area.”
Jerry Halperin is survived by Barbara, his wife of over 50 years; two daughters, Alicia Halperin Odom and Rachel Halperin Montgomery; four grandchildren; his sister, Linda Halperin Nissenbaum; and a niece and nephew.