B1.3 Use and Abuse of Drugs

  • Created by: Fiona S
  • Created on: 04-06-15 20:01

A drug is: a chemical that has an effect on the functioning of the body

Drugs and Statins

  • Statins are used to treat Heart Disease
  • Statins reduce high cholesterol levels
  • Statins stop the process of Atheroma
  • Liver Damage and Aggression (4 out of 5 patients) are possible side effects

Drug Development and Testing

A Placebo is... when you do a drug test and you give the patient a fake drug e.g. sugar and make them think it is the real drug

Double-Blind Trial - when the patients and the doctors don't know who has the real drug

Random Testing - a black-box testing approach in which software is tested by choosing a random subset of all possible input values. It helps avoid the problem of testing what you know will work.

When new medical drugs are devised, they have to be extensively tested and trialled before being used. Drugs are tested in a series of stages to find out if they are safe and effective. New drugs are extensively tested for toxicity, efficacy and dose:

  • in the laboratory, using cells, tissues and live animals
  • in clinical trials involving healthy volunteers and patients. Very low doses of the drug are given at the start of the clinical trial. If the drug is found to be safe, further clinical trials are carried out to find the optimum dose for the drug. In some double blind trials, some patients are given a placebo, which does not contain the drug. Neither the doctors nor the patients know who has received a placebo and who has received the drug until the trial is complete


  • Released 1958, and quickly became the best selling sleeping pill and was advertised as safe for pregnant women, even though there was no data to support this
  • Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to treat morning sickness
  • The German drug company who created Thalidomide expected to make a lot of money as alternative sedatives are toxic
  • By 1960, a rare birth defect was appearing. Babies were born without arms or legs. Their hands and feet were attached directly to their bodies. This condition is called phocomelia
  • By 1962, 12000 Thalidomide babies had been born but only 8000 survived. It was estimated a further 12000 had died before birth. It was withdrawn from the UK market the same year
  • Doctors found the chemicals that cause defects in embryos are called teratogens
  • Further research suggested that the drug most affected the embryo if taken between the 20th and 36th


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