Developing new medicines

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We are developing new medicines all the time, as scientists and doctors try to find ways of curing more diseases. We test new medicines in the lab. Every new medical treatment has to be extensively tested and trialled before it isused. The proccess makes sure that it works well and is as safe as possible.

A good medicine is:

  • effective
  • safe
  • stable
  • successfully taken into and removed from your body

Developing and testing a new drug

When scientists research a new medicine they have to make sure all these conditions are met. It can take up to 12 years to bring a new medicine into your doctor's surgery. It can also cost a lot of money; up to about £350 million.

Researchers target a disease and make lots of possible new drugs. These are tested in the laboratry to find if they are toxic and if they seem to do their job. They are tested on cells, tissues and even whole organs. Many chemicals fail at this stage.

The small numbers of chemicals which pass the earlier stage are now tested on animals. This is done to find out how they work in a whole living organism. It also gives information about possible doese and side effects. The tissues and animals are used as models to predict how the drugs may behave in humans.

Drugs that pass animals testing will be tested on human volunteers in clinical trials. First  very low doses are given to healthy people to check for side effects. Then it is tried on a small number of…


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