Timeline of drug development

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This is a timeline of drug development, attempting to describe scientific developments on pharmacology, and events related to medicinal aplications of drugs. Notable drugs are named, as well as some prominent and historic pharmaceutical companies. Historic regulations for the development of drugs are also named. Antibiotics are described in the timeline of antibiotics, while psychoactive drugs are described in the timeline of psychoactive drugs.

Big picture

Time period Development summary
Ancient times The use of natural extracts for medicinal purposes goes back thousands of years.[1] Most likely discovered through a combination of trial and error, early medicines often had as much religious and spiritual significance as they did healing importance. Plants were the basis of the ancient medicines, and were complemented with minerals and animal substances. Often the same plants and herbs were used for similar diseases among different civilizations, even though they were discovered separately.[2]
5th–15th century Treatment of disease through development of new herbal remedies may have been very difficult in an environment where the prevailing attitude is that disease is God’s punishment for sin. Practitioners of herbal remedies would often be seen as heretics. Medical progress is very weak due to the prevailing unscientific opinion.[2]
14th–17th century During the Renaissance, the development of medicinal remedies in Europe is reborn. Pharmacopeias are established in multiple cities.
19th century The subject of pharmacology (Materia Medica) is established as a scientific discipline late in the century, by people such as Rudolf Buchheim, Oswald Schmiedeberg, Paul Ehrlich, and Henry Dale.[3][4] Until the late 1800s, most drugs are based on herbs or extraction of ingredients from botanical sources.[4] Oswald Schmiedeberg (1838–1921) is generally recognized as the founder of modern pharmacology.[5]
20th century In the 1930s, drug discovery starts concentrating on screening natural products and isolating the active ingredients for treating diseases. The active ingredients are normally the synthetic version of the natural products.[4] The introduction of penicillin in the 1940s starts the era of antibiotics, which are recognized as one of the greatest advances in therapeutic medicine.[6] A great milestone that would boost the era of DNA and medicine is the elucidation of the double-helical structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953.[7] In the 1950s vancomycin is discovered.[7] In the late 1970s, recombinant DNA products utilizing knowledge of cellular and molecular biology starts development, and the biotechnology industry launches.[4]By the 1990s, combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening, molecular modeling and bioinformatics are already contributing to the discovery of newer generation drugs based on genomics and proteomics.[7]
21th century In the current century, more pharmaceutical advances are made possible thanks to a number of advanced disciplines. Along with cellular biology, chemical biology and microbiology, state-of-the art research includes enzyme-based molecular synthesis, recombinant biomolecules and stem cell research.[8] In the last years, hundreds of pharmaceutical companies have more than 7,000 medicines in development around the world, with about half of those new drugs undergoing development in the United States.[2] It seems likely that the next stage of advances in drug discovery will be result of integrating sophisticated new computational, bioinformatics, pharmacogenomics, engineering, and/or nanotechnology methods.[1]

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Geographical location
c.5000 BC Scientific development Ayurveda originates as an oral tradition. The ayurvedic materia medica is extensive and mostly based on herbal formulations. Some of the herbs would appear in Western medicines, such as cardamom and cinnamon. India
c.3500 BC Scientific development Traditional Chinese medicine is believed to have originated around this time. The Chinese pharmacopoeia is extensive, with Chinese herbs like reserpine and alkaloid ephedrine extending their use into the Western world.[4] China
c.3000 BC Scientific development Ancient papyrus provide written records of early Egyptian medical knowledge. Egyptian medications are based mainly on herbal products such as myrrh, frankincense, castor oil, fennel, sienna, thyme, linseed, aloe, and garlic.[4] Egypt
c.2500 BC Publication Pen T'Sao, the Chinese book by Emperor Shen Nung on medicinal roots and grasses, is written.[9] China
2100 BC Scientific development Sumerian clay tablets from the time contain pharmacologic "recipes" involving ingredients such as salt, saltpeter, thyme, seeds, roots, and bark. These ingredients are mixed with beer, presumably to aid in swallowing rather than for further medicinal value.[10]
1550 BC Publication Ebers Papyrus, a collection of 800 prescriptions for medicinal plant usages of garlic, willow, juniper, aloe, etc, is written.[9]
460 BC–365 BC Scientific development Greek physician Hippocrates believes that there is little use for drugs. Some remnant of this attitude may be preserved in the word pharmacology, which is derived from the Greek word pharmakon, meaning "potion" or "poison."[10]
120 BC Scientific development Mithridates VI of Pontus devises a compound preparation called “Mithridatium” which includes 41 individual components and is held as a panacea for almost all diseases until as late as 1780s.[11]
130 AD–200 AD Scientific development Galen practices and teaches pharmacy and medicine. His contributions focus on correct compounding and are still useful today. Galen wrote at least 30 pharmacy-related works.[10]
900 AD–100 AD Publication Persian polymath Avicenna records a vast encyclopedia of medical description and treatment.[4]
1240 Publication The official books of drug quality standards dating back to one of the proclamations of the Salerno Medical Edict issued by Fredrick II of Sicily, order apothecaries to prepare remedies always in the same way – forma curiae.[11] Italy
1498 Publication The first official pharmacopeia is published in Florence, Italy, with the goal of providing a source for uniform pharmaceutical standards.[10] Italy
1520s Scientific development Swiss physician Paracelsus introduces new drugs and chemical concepts into medicine.[12]
1540 Policy The Apothecaries Wares, Drugs and Stuffs Act. is introduced in England, subjecting the manufacture of Mithridatium and other medicines to supervision. The Act is one of the earliest British statutes on the control of medicines and establishes the appointment of four inspectors of “Apothecary Wares, Drugs and Stuffs”. This could be seen as the start of pharmaceutical inspections.[11] United Kingdom
1581 Publication The first Spanish Pharmacopoeia is issued.[11] Spain
1606 Organization The Society of Apothecaries of London is formed. At the time, an apothecary is similar to a modern pharmacist, preparing and selling medicinal substances.[10] United Kingdom
1617 Organization King James I grants a charter to the Society of Apothecaries of London, creating the first official organization of pharmacists in the Anglo-Saxon world.[10] United Kingdom
1618 Publication The standards for the manufacture of Mithridatum are established in England in The London Pharmacopoeia.[11] United Kingdom
1668 Organization Merck originates as a pharmacy in Darmstadt, Germany.[13] Germany
1750–1799 Drug English botanist William Withering introduces the digitalis, an extract from the plant foxglove, for treatment of cardiac problems.[4] United Kingdom
1814 Publication Menorcan-born French toxicologist Mathieu Orfila writes the first textbook on drugs and poisons. Orfila is considered as the father of forensic toxicology as a scientific discipline.[3] France
1819 Scientific development The word ‘alkaloid’ is coined in 1819 by a German chemist Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Meissner coins the term "alkaloid", a class oforganic compounds that would play a prominent role in the development of forensic toxicology as a scientific discipline.[3]
1821 Organization The Phila­delphia College of Pharmacy is founded, being the first association of pharmacists in the United States.[10] United States
1828 Scientific development German chemist Friedrich Wohler manages to synthesize urea from inorganic substances and thus demolishes the vital force theory. This event is considered the birth of synthetic organic chemistry.[5]
1832 Synthesis Chloral hydrate is the first synthetic compound created by German chemist Justus von Liebig.[8]
1842 Scientific development French physiologist Claude Bernard discovers that the arrow poison curare acts at the neuromuscular junction to interrupt the stimulation of muscle by nerve impulses.[5]
1842 Production British pharmaceutical Beecham starts patenting medicine.[13] United Kingdom
1849 Organization Pfizer is founded in the by two German immigrants, Charles Pfizer and Charles F. Erhart in New York City, initially as a fine chemicals business.[13] United States
1859 Facility Beecham opens the world’s first factory for producing only medicines.[13]
1863 Organization Bayer is founded as a dye maker in Wuppertal, Germany.[13] Germany
1863 Organization Solvay S.A. is founded in Belgium. Belgium
1869 Scientific development German pharmacologist Oswald Schmiedeberg shows that muscarine evokes the same effect on the heart as electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve.[5]
1869 Drug The first synthetic drug, chloral hydrate, is introduced as a sedative-hypnotic.[14][8]
1874 Drug Salicyclic acid, the precursor of aspirin, is isolated from willow bark.[7][15] Germany
1876 Organization Eli Lilly and Company is founded in Indianapolis.[16][17] United States
1886 Organization Johnson & Johnson is founded in the United States.[18] United States
1890 Organization The first chair in pharmacology in the United States is established at the University of Michigan under John Jacob Abel.[5] United States
1890 Facility Bayer sets up an early industrial pharmacology laboratory.[15] Germany
1891 Scientific development German Jewish physician Paul Ehrlich observes the antimalarial effects of methylene blue, a phenothiazine derivative.[19] Germany
1896 Organization Swiss pharmaceutical Hoffmann-La Roche is founded.[20] Switzerland
1903 Regulation The first United States Government inspection and licensure policies are implemented for those manufacturing viruses, serums, toxins, and analogous products.[10] United States
1905 German chemist Alfred Einhorn discovers the injectable local anesthetic procaine, which would become Novocain.[21]
1906 Regulation The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed in the United States, giving the government the ability to enforce United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards and to bring action against those who adulterate or misbrand drugs.[10] United States
1928 Scientific development Scottish physician Alexander Fleming discovers antibiotic penicillin when finds that penicillium mold is active against staphylococcus bacteria.[6]
1936 Medical development Chemotherapy is introduced.[10]
1937 Crisis Over 100 people in the United States die of diethylene glycol poisoning following the use of an elixir sulfanilamide, which uses the chemical as a solvent without any safety testing. This event prompts the development of medicines regulation in the country in the following year.[11] United States
1938 Policy The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is introduced in the United States, with the premarket notification requirement for new drugs.[11] United States
1940 Warfarin is isolated in pure form for the first time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[21][22]
1956 Drug Paracetamol is first introduced in Britain.[23][24][13] United Kingdom
1957 Policy In an effort to create a much more structured system, both for prescription of drugs and their reimbursement, the United Kingdom National Health Service introduces a price fixing scheme to allow reasonable return on investment for drug manufacturers, solidifying the incentive to invest in new medicines.[13] United Kingdom
1957–1960 Drug Mestranol/noretynodrel (Enovid) is introduced for menstrual disorders. In 1960 it is introduced for contraceptive purposes.[21] United States
1958–1960 Crisis An estimated 10,000 babies are born with phocomelia and other deformities in a crisis encompassing several countries where thalidomide was introduced as sedative and hypnotic. The drug was first introduced in Western Germany in 1956 and subsequently introduced in 46 different countries worldwide. This is considered the second catastrophe that influenced the development of medicines regulation.[11]
1960 Drug The contraceptive pill is introduced, unleashing an impact on society almost as massive as that of penicillin, enabling women to effectively control their fertility and enabling sexual equality for the first time.[13]
1962 Synthesis Tamoxifen is first synthesized. Originally intended as an anti-fertility drug, today it is used to treat estrogen-positive breast cancer.[21]
1962 Regulation The Drug Amendments Act is passed by the United States Congress, requiring the Food and Drug Administration to approve all new drug applications and, for the first time, demands that a new drug should be proven to be effective and safe.[11] United States
1963 Regulation A Committee on the Safety of Drugs (CSD) is started in the United Kingdom.[11] United Kingdom
1964 Synthesis Jerome Horwitz, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, first synthesizes AZT as a potential anti-leukemia drug, with negative results. Today, AZT is used toi treat HIV/AIDS.[21][25]
1965–1969 Drug The analgesics acetanilide and phenacetin are discovered and are both created using the byproducts of coal tar.[8]
1969 Drug Ibuprofen is first introduced in Britain.[26][27][28][13] United Kingdom
1975 Drug Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are introduced, improving cardiac health.[13]
1977 Drug Tagamet (Cimetidine), an ulcer medication, becomes the first ever “blockbuster” drug, earning its manufacturers more than US$1 billion a year and its creators the Nobel Prize.[29][30][13]
1979 Drug Minoxidil first appears on the market as a breakthrough drug for high blood pressure. However, it is subsequently found to increase body hair growth for 80 percent of patients who took the drug orally.[21]
1980 Regulation The first International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities is held in Annapolis, United States.[31][32] United States
1987 Drug Eli Lilly releases Prozac, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), thus revolutionising mental health practice.[13]
1990 Regulation The International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for the Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) is established as a collaborative initiative between the European Union, Japan and the United States with observers from the World HEalth Organization, the European Free Trade Association and Canada.[11]
1993 Drug Taxol is approved for clinical use.[7][33] United States
1993 Regulation The European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA) is established.[34][35][11]
1998 Drug Sidenafil becomes the first oral drug approved to treat impotence, replacing injected medications.[21][36][37]
2004 Organization French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi is founded.[38] France
2013 Organization Biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. is founded.[39] United States

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See also

External links


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