A pharmaceutical drug (medicine or medication and officially medicinal product) is any chemical substance formulated or compounded as single active ingredient or in combination of other pharmacologically active substance, it may be in a separate but packed in a single unit pack as combination product intended for internal, or external or for use in the medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease.
The development of small molecule therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of diseases has played a critical role in the practice of medicine for many years. In fact, the use of natural extracts for medicinal purposes goes back thousands of years; however, it has only been in the past half century or so that searching for new drugs has found itself in the realm of science. In 1900, one-third of all deaths in the U.S. were from three general causes that are rare today because they are preventable and/or treatable: pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea. By 1940, the chance of dying from these three causes was 1 in 11; by 2000, the odds were down to 1 in 25. Of the three, only pneumonia remains in the list of top ten causes of death, which is now led by more complex conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. While other factors such as improved sanitation and vaccination certainly played a role in the increase of life expectancy during the twentieth century – from less than 50 years in 1900 to more than 77 years in 2000 – the availability of drugs to control infection, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and to some extent even cancer, certainly also contributed to the obvious improvement in our collective health and life expectancy during that period. The history of drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry and academic labs over the past half-century shows a progression of discovery paradigms that began shortly after “miracle drugs” such as the penicillins became available to the public after World War II. That same decade also saw the rise of synthetic organic chemistry, which had progressed to the point that the large scale preparation of “non-natural” drugs or drug candidates was economically feasible. The roots of the pharmaceutical industry lie back with the apothecaries and pharmacies that offered traditional remedies as far back as the middle ages, but the industry as we understand it today really has its origins in the second half of the 19th century. Whilst the scientific revolution of the 17th century had spread ideas of rationalism and experimentation, and the industrial revolution had transformed the production of goods in the late 18th century, the marrying of the two concepts for the benefit of human health was a comparatively late development.
Switzerland also rapidly developed a home-grown pharmaceutical industry in the second half of the 19th century. Previously a centre of the trade in textiles and dyes, Swiss manufacturers gradually began to realise their dyestuffs had antiseptic and other properties and began to market them as pharmaceuticals, in contrast to the origin in pharmacies of other enterprises. Switzerland’s total lack of patent laws led to it being accused of being a “pirate state” in the German Reichstag. Sandoz, CIBA-Geigy, Roche and the Basel hub of the pharmaceutical industry all have their roots in this boom.
The national rivalries and conflicts that characterised this period also had their impact on the developing industry, Bayer had the aspirin trademark and its US assets seized during World War One, whilst “American” Merck (now Merck &, Co. in the US or Merck Sharp &, Dohme [MSD] elsewhere) was compulsorily split off from its Germany parent company (Merck KGaA) at the same time.¹ Bayer also had its Russian subsidiary seized during the Russian revolution. This disruption to Germany’s position as the leader in pharmaceuticals in the early 20th century by the war meant that others, particularly in the US, could...
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