The term pharmaceuticals is derived from “pharmaceuticus” (Latin) and “pharmaceutikos” (Greek)
and implies “to administer medicines.” In the modern usage of the word, pharmaceutical drugs are substances used to diagnose, prevent or treatment abnormal medical conditions and diseases, viz. pain, malaria, anxiety, etc.
Pharmaceuticals are classified in several ways, based either on their chemical properties, or mode of administration, or biological system affected, etc. A widely recognized and prevalent system for classification is the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System (ATC system). Examples of such classification include, dermatologicals (drugs for the skin), Nervous system (drugs for the brain and nerves), Anti-infectives (drugs meant to kill harmful invasion of the body by bacteria, viruses, etc.)
The pharmaceutical industry is large and fast paced. For instance, global spending on pharmaceutical reached US$643 billion in 2006. Moreover, as standards of healthcare improve and the world's population ages, the damand for newer, better and effective drugs would scale new heights.
Selected Drug Types
Medicines and drugs are classified several different ways, for instance based on their mode of administration, chemical properties, or the biological system affected.
While there's no cure for allergies, most anti allergic medications act systemically to reileve painful symptoms of allergies, viz. congestion, runny nose, heavy breathing during allergic episodes. Several types of anti allergic drugs include, antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, bronchodilators, mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene modifiers and immunotherapy medicines.
Today there as many medications available for treating Type 2 diabetes or diabetes mellitus. Aside from injectable insulin, most oral pills control diabetes by stimulating our bodies to secrete more insulin, or by enhancing insulin's effectiveness, or by other mechanisms. Sulfonylureas, Biguanides, Thiazolidinediones, Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, Meglitinides, Dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) inhibitors, are some common drugs for diabetes.
Anti-infective medicines inhibit the growth of harmful infection causing organisms (bacteria, fungus, viruses, etc), or by kill them outright. Consequently, anti-infective medicines are of several types, including antibacterials, antibiotics, antifungals, antiprotozoans and antivirals, immune sera and immunoglobulins.
Antihistamine or a histamine antagonist is a chemical agent that either inhibits the release or action of histamine in order to manage allergies. Mainly two types of antihistamines are in use today, namely H1 and H2 receptor antagonists (e.g. Diphenhydramine, Loratadine, Cimetidine, Famotidine, etc.) However H3- and H4-receptor antagonists viz. ABT-239, Thioperamide, are being used on an experimental basis. Other antihistamines such as Cromoglicate are used to inhibit the histamine release itself.
Antineoplastic drugs, also known as 'antitumor antibiotics' are meant to inhibit or prevent the maturation and growth of of new cells that may become malignant. They achieve this objective by targeting the DNA. Many cancer drugs too are antineoplastic. Examples of these drugs include actinomycin, doxorubicin, daunorubicin, bleomycin, mitomycin and plicamycin.
Pharmaceutical drugs meant to treat infections caused by viruses are known as antiviral drugs, each of these drugs traget a particular virus. Antivirals belong to the broader class of antimicrobials. Abacavir, Aciclovir, Combivir, Entecavir, Fosamprenavir and Indinavir are some common antivirals.
Cancer drugs as the name implies are used to treat cancer. These drugs work by inhibiting mitosis
i.e. cell division and target fast-replicating cells. Since the drugs work by damaging cells they are also known as cytotoxic. Some cancer drugs are abarelix, anakinra, bortezomib, docetaxel,
paclitaxel, rituximab and tamoxifen.
A vaccine is a formulation that improves the immunity of a persoon to a particular disease. The term is derived from Edward Jenner's use of cowpox as "vacca" means cow in Latin. Vaccines are used either for prevention or treatment of diseases. The ones use in prevention are known as prophylactic (e.g poliomielitis), whereas therapeutic vaccines are used in treatments of diseases (e.g. cancer vaccine).
Tips For Buying Pharmaceutical Drugs
For the most part its the quality of medicines that compromises their effectiveness. Supply and distribution counterfeit drugs is a major challeng before the industry which not only puts the consumers life in jeopardy but also result in losses to the industry worth billions. Quality of drug purchases can be ensured by the following meassures.
Establish the integrity of the source prior to need
Establish a list of approved suppliers.
If you source from an alternative source ensure that at least the following information is provided:
A pedigree back to the previous source
Certification that it is not a diverted product
Certification that any actions by the alternative source will not alter any original manufacture warranties or guarantees
Certification that the product has been stored and handled consistent with product labelling requirements
Be wary of pharmaceutical products that are offered at an unusually cheap price.
Make a list of key pharmaceutical drugs that will not be purchased from any other source but the manufacturer, or authorised distributor.
Watch out for signs of a removed or switched product label. This is useful becauses counterfeiters often tend to remove the original label and replace it with a counterfeit label. Specifically, look for tacky residue on the container or signs of a label faded or discoloured along the edges.
Look for minute changes in the product’s package and compare them with previously purchased products. Examine differences in paper texture, size and thickness of the labels, the gloss or finish on the paper, fonts and font sizes, print colour or raised print, holograms, colour shifting inks, tears in the sealing tape and seals and variations in the size of the container.
On the whole the industry's outlook for the future is positive. As the world's populaton ages and health care reaches out to more and more people the demand for pharmaceutical drugs too will rise. Over the years, some new players in the pharmaceutical industry have gathered limelight. For instance China is experiencing the fastest growth in pharmaceutical markets at present. It rose by 28% in 2004 compared to 7% growth rate globally. Further, it is expected to overtake Germany and France by 2015, if it continues to grow at the same rate.
On the other hand biotechnology is the fastest growing sector pharma industry. Projections reveal that it would register sales of $250bn by 2015. This figure is a good 20.3% of the market worldwide. Another development that is expected to materialize is that their would be a lot of pharma-biotech mergers in the coming 10 years, coupled with and increased consolidation of in the biotechnology sector.
However, amidst the bonhomie there are concerns about the challenges before the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. The challenges maximizing sales and marketing effectiveness are of competition from generic medicines and price regulations. In addition to this the industry's present business model is both economically unsustainable and operationally insufficient to launch the types of innovative drugs and treatments that would be demanded by the markets worldwide.