What is Medicine and Pharmaceutical Drugs?
We usually take medicine, also known as pharmaceuticals, when we are sick. Pharmaceuticals are chemical substances that help cure, prevent, or relieve the symptoms of a disease.
What are Medicines made from?
Historically, medicines were made from natural sources such as plants, animals, molds, bacteria, and minerals. Many medicines are still made from natural sources, especially plants. However, most drugs are “synthetic” drugs. This means they are created by chemists in a laboratory.
Making a New Drug
To create a new drug, pharmaceutical companies do a lot of research and testing. Some steps are usually followed:
Research – The first step in creating a new drug is research. Scientists study the cause of a disease or symptom. They may study the pathogen (germ) that causes disease or what causes a certain symptom to appear. Then they performed experiments in the lab to see which chemicals might work. They also use supercomputers to run computer models.
Trials on animals – The next stage is animal testing. After they pass animal testing, they will apply for FDA permission to begin human trials.
Human Trials – Human trials were conducted in three phases.
Phase I trials – In the first phase, the safety of the drug is tested in a small group of 20 to 80 people.
Phase II trials – In the second phase, the effectiveness of the drug is tested on 100 to 300 people. Efficacy is a measure of a drug’s effectiveness. Some people self-medicate while others take a placebo. A placebo is just a sugar pill with no real medicine. This stage helps researchers determine if the drug is really working.
Phase III trials – In the third phase, much larger groups of people are tested, usually over 1,000. Efficacy and side effects are further determined during this period.
New Drug Application – If the trials are successful, the pharmaceutical company will apply to the FDA for a New Drug Application.
FDA Approval – If the FDA approves, the drug can be sold.
Producing a new drug takes years and often costs millions of dollars.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
In the United States, the government has regulations in place to ensure that drugs are as safe as possible. Companies must perform certain tests and meet certain requirements before they can sell drugs. The drug watchdog agency is called the Food and Drug Administration, commonly abbreviated as FDA.
Types of Drugs
Most legal drugs can be divided into two categories:
Prescription – Prescription drugs require a doctor’s approval to be filled. Medicines are dispensed by pharmacists who make sure the right dose is given and that people understand the right way to take the medicine.
Over the Counter – Over-the-counter drugs that can be purchased without a prescription. Examples of these include pain relievers like Advil and aspirin, cough syrups, and sinus medications.
Ways of Taking Drugs
Pharmaceutical drugs can be administered in a number of methods, including pills, injections (ouch!), creams, eye drops, inhalers, mists, and intravenous (intravenous) injections.
Most drugs have side effects. You should always read the label of any medicine you take and follow directions, dosages, and warnings. If you experience any side effects, stop taking the medicine immediately and contact your doctor.
NOTE: Just for the sake of a “safe” and “over-the-counter” drug, you should always follow the directions. Taking too much of any drug is VERY dangerous and can even kill you. Children should never take medicine without the help of a parent, nurse or doctor.
Interesting Facts about Medicine and Pharmaceutical Drugs
Some medicines have a bad taste to prevent your child from taking too much.
Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria.
Some drugs, such as vaccines, prevent disease in the first place.
Some drugs help provide substances that our bodies can no longer make. Insulin injections help replace the insulin that the pancreas can no longer make for people with type I diabetes.
The scientific name of an analgesic (analgesic) is “analgesic”.