New Drug Discovery and Development

Book Reviews: Therapeutic agents, more often called drugs, play an increasingly important role in our aging population. This is reflected most directly in the ever-larger portion of family income spent on medicines, an increase that is only partly attributable to the rising cost of filling a prescription. The public and much of the media point to the greed of “big pharma,” the small number of huge pharmaceutical companies, as the main cause of this price escalation. The companies in turn defend prices by citing the cost of research aimed at finding and developing new therapeutic agents. It can thus be instructive to set aside the heat of the argument and to take a closer look at the historical origins of some representative examples of the extensive pharmacopoeia available to physicians for treating their patients.

To that end, this volume presents a set of case histories that have led to families of drugs for treating many of mankind’s ills. Some, for example the antibiotics, have contributed to a marked increase in longevity in the advanced world over the past half century. The effect of some other categories, for example the central analgesics, has been on patients’ quality of life. The discovery of a new drug category inevitably leads to the development of related compounds as companies race to enter the burgeoning market. This account notes some of the entries that came after the pioneering drug, although not in the detail found in more specialized volumes.

The first chapter traces the development of the major classes of antibiotics used to treat infectious disease. The case histories provide interesting examples of the interplay between guided research and serendipity that marks much of drug research. The synthesis of the first effective antibacterial agent, the dye Prontosil, was prompted by the well-known affinity of stains for bacteria. It was found not much later that activity was in fact due to colorless sulfanilamide produced by cleavage of the dye by liver enzymes. The discovery and early development of penicillin took place in university laboratories. The antibiotic became a usable drug through involvement of industry at later stages. The second chapter deals with agents for treating the other major aspect of infectious disease, the virus.

The great majority of antiviral drugs are of much more recent origin than antibiotics. This field of research interestingly received major stimulus from the AIDS epidemic. Some of the first antiviral drugs had their origin in anticancer research programs and reflect the reliance on screens that tested a wide variety of chemicals characteristic of the programs. The more recent antiviral compounds on the other hand were designed to take advantage of newly gained insights into the molecular biology of viral infection.

The somewhat complex development of antihypertensive agents is considered in Chapter 3. Classes of drugs used to treat elevated blood pressure came from two disparate sources. A number were developed on the basis of the knowledge base in physiology and pharmacology that came out of basic research in academia and the NIH as well as industry. This provided the theoretical rationale for the early alpha blockers; the actual chemical compounds were found by random screening of products that came from the labs of organic chemists. In an interesting feedback, new compounds in this class, notably clonidine and prazosin, led to new insights into pharmacology. This motif is repeated in the calcium channel blockers, where a dihydropyridine found by random screening led to the elucidation of a new mechanism of action. The history of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and the more recent angiotensin antagonists drew heavily on the basic pharmacology of kidney function.

Bibliographical Data of New Drug Discovery and Development

Reference Type: Book
Record Number: xx
Author: Daniel Lednicer
Year: 2006
Place Published: Hoboken, NJ, USA
Publisher: Wiley-Interscience
Number of Pages: 190
Edition: 1st
ISBN -10: 0470007508
ISBN-13: 978-0470007501
Kindle Available: NO
Buy: Get it on Amazon

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