Public and private organizations involved in the discovery, development, and manufacture of drugs and medications. Historically, medicines were prepared by physicians and later by apothecaries. Today, drug development relies on the collaboration and effort of highly trained scientists at universities and private companies. The modern era of drug discovery and development originated in the 19th century when scientists learned how to isolate and purify medicinal compounds and developed large-scale manufacturing techniques. As understanding of biology and chemistry improved in the 20th century, the occurrence and severity of such diseases as typhoid fever, poliomyelitis, and syphilis were greatly reduced. While many drugs, such as quinine and morphine, are extracted from plant substances, others are discovered and synthesized by techniques including combinatorial chemistry and recombinant DNA technology. The pharmaceutical industry has greatly aided medical progress, and many new drugs have been discovered and produced in industrial laboratories. Identifying new drug targets, attaining regulatory approval, and refining drug discovery processes are among the challenges that the pharmaceutical industry faces in the continual advancement of control and elimination of disease.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on pharmaceutical industry, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up pharmaceutical industry? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.