Our Other Drug Problem

With all the official and media attention given to the worldwide trade in illicit drugs, the public has at most a dim awareness of the serious problems affecting the production, testing, and sale of the legal kind: the medicines that we take to treat or cure everything from AIDS to Yellow Fever.

MILAN – With all the official and media attention given to the worldwide trade in illicit drugs, the public has at most a dim awareness of the serious problems affecting the production, testing, and sale of the legal kind: the medicines that we take to treat or cure everything from AIDS to Yellow Fever.

The development of new drugs is a complex and lengthy process. It starts with an idea and requires a wide range of skills to bring that idea to fruition: synthesis or extraction of more or less complicated molecules, proof of their therapeutic effect in cell cultures and animals, testing for toxicity, and clinical studies.

Along this path, many potential drugs are withdrawn, and even successfully tested drugs face the additional hurdle of regulatory approval. Finally, the drug reaches the market, where it must be followed closely, because many adverse reactions are detected only with a large number of patients and after years of use.

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