Major And Important Breakthrough And Discovery In Pharmacy

There are many breakthrough in pharmacy. Most of them occured in the 19th and 20th century. This is similar with what happened in other fields. Electricity and Internet is considered one of the most notable breakthrough in science.

What Makes A Breakthrough

According to Stone, 'two things make a drug important: first is that the drug is or was use to treat a large number of people with a range of problems and second because a drug have led the way showing it is possible to treat a disease.'
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Going by this definition there are lots of drugs that fall into one or both categories. However, I decided to streamline the list to the following.

Major and important breakthrough in pharmacy
Breakthrough in pharmacy

Penicillin is the first antibiotic known to man but not the first antibacterial. No other drug have change the way medicine is view today than penicillin. Discovered by Alexandra Fleming in 1928 as a chance discovery, it took another more than 10 years before it became a drug for treating diseases. It treated many bacterial infections. It's availability was shortfall of what is needed.  The production process yielded little product which was not even enough to treat more than 10 persons at a time, this resulted to the harvesting of urine of persons who took the drug for further extraction because most of the drug comes out unchanged. The drug is then isolated and reuse. This happened during the second world war. Ever since then, many drugs have been developed from the knowledge of penicillin including antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.


Even in the modern world, some surgical procedures are still done without an anesthetic. This may be due to inability of the patient to afford an anesthetic. If you have ever seen one you will understand how valuable ether is when it was discovered in the 1800s. Ether depress the brain functioning to pain helping carry out surgery without having to restrict the patient with ropes. Since it's discovery, better, cheaper and safer alternative have been developed.


Malarial have killed millions of persons over many decades. It is even rumoured that the great Alexandra died from malaria. No known documented cure until 1820 when quinine was isolated from the back of cinchona. But evidence point to the fact that the herbs have already been in use as far back as 1600s by people living in Peru. The bark was brought to Europe when it was use to treat a European who once live in Peru. Now, we have over a dozen antimalarial to choose from.


Do you know that until the 1922, serious diabetes leads to death? The reason is that sufferers are advise against eating too much leaving them to waste away gradually until they die. Insulin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) came to the rescue. It was the first HRT. It was extracted from animal. Now diabetes sufferers can live well.

Small Pox Vaccine

The list will not be comeplete if we do not understand this very valuable contribution to pharmacy. The first ever most successful vaccine ever develop pave the way for other vaccine showing its importance. Small pox you may not have heard if you are not very much interested in diseases but this is now history. Small pox took the lives of over 10% of the world population in a very short period of time. It was the end of the 19th century a vaccine was developed which successfully wipe out the infection. It became the first infection to go into extinction never heard of again due to the vaccine. Ever since then, different vaccine have been develop and more still on the way in management of other forms of diseases.


Thalidomide is a drug that was never accepted into the United States of America. It was a drug effective in treating anxiety, insomnia and motion sickness and anorexia pregnancy. It went into market in 1957 in most European countries. It was very safe for adults but had adverse and side effect in babies born to mothers who took it during pregnancy. More than 10000 babies around the world developed phocomalia due to thalidomide. Some other articles suggested higher figures. Only about 50% of the babies survived. Many that survived lived with one deformity or another. The result?
The Food And Drug Administration (F.D.A) in 1961 increase their regulation and testing of drugs. Before licensing with proof of efficacy and accurate discussion of side effects. Thus, the world that initially thought that a drug taken by mother cannot harm a growing fetus in the womb change that perception after the story of thalidomide. This also lead to increase awareness that drugs with positive results can have some subtle adverse effect.
Presently, thalidomide is is not in many drug markets because no regulation is able to completely prevent pregnant women from taking it as the result from some countries have shown.
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The Future

Many drugs have been discovered over time. Some are better than those already in the market where others are trailing behind their predecessors. However, the fight for patent right is pushing pharmaceutical industries into research because any company that can successfully develope any new drug consider itself as giant in the industry. The latest development is the design of already existing drugs with a different structures. Whatever the case, we have come a long way.
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