If you were going to compile a list of the most important medicines ever made, what do you think would make the grade?
Well, experts at WebMB have compiled a list of their very own - 10 in fact - based on discussions with John Swann, PhD, a historian at the FDA; Trevor Stone, DSc, head of pharmacology at the University of Glasgow; Leslie Z. Benet, PhD, the first president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS); and medical historian Stephen Greenberg, PhD.
The list comes after WebMD asked experts to nominate drugs to appear on such a list. While some rocketed their way to the top - thanks largely to unanimous votes - for others, finding their way onto the shortlist was more tricky.
The reason? Well, as Swann himself points out: "You have to look at this issue not just as thinking of one drug that treats one kind of patient, but of how the drug changed the whole infrastructure of the drug industry and the practice of medicine." And that, it seems, proved to offer something of a lengthy debate.
While some entries on WebMD's list are categorically obvious (think penicillin, smallpox/polio vaccines, morphine, aspirin, insulin), others, such as ether - the first drug used as an anesthetic - or Salvarsan - the trade name for arsphenamine and the world's first chemotherapy - carry back-stories with them so laced with significance you'd be hard pressed to leave any off the list.
However, perhaps the most exciting thing of all is that the WebMD list is by no means set in stone. Even those who compiled the list admit every expert had a different idea of their "favourite" drugs; plus, as the pharmaceutical industry faces the very real issue of more and more drugs going off-patent over the next few years, including some of the best-selling drugs by the likes of Pfizer, Lipitor, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Wyeth and Merck, the battlefield for new drug innovation is really heating up.
Take a look at our collection of what could be defined as the world's most important drugs: some are already staples of the pharmaceutical industry, while others could soon be latest innovations to shake up the drug discovery market.
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