Mid-1800s – 1945: From botanicals to the first synthetic drugs
The modern pharmaceutical industry traces its roots to two sources. The first of these were local apothecaries that expanded from their traditional role distributing botanical drugs such as morphine and quinine to wholesale manufacture in the mid 1800s. Rational drug discovery from plants started particularly with the isolation of morphine, analgesic and sleep-inducing agent from opium, by the German apothecary assistant Friedrich Sertürner, who named the compound after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus. Multinational corporations including Merck, Hoffman-La Roche, Burroughs-Wellcome (now part of Glaxo Smith Kline), Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Upjohn (now part of Pfizer) began as local apothecary shops in the mid-1800s. By the late 1880s, German dye manufacturers had perfected the purification of individual organic compounds from coal tar and other mineral sources and had also established rudimentary methods in organic chemical synthesis.The development of synthetic chemical methods allowed scientists to systematically vary the structure of chemical substances, and growth in the emerging science of pharmacology expanded their ability to evaluate the biological effects of these structural changes.
Epinephrine, norepinephrine, and amphetamine
By the 1890s the profound effect of adrenal extracts on many different tissue types had been discovered, setting off a search both for the mechanism of chemical signalling and efforts to exploit these observations for the development of new drugs. The blood pressure raising and vasoconstrictive effects of adrenal extracts were of particular interest to surgeons as hemostatic agents and as treatment for shock, and a number of companies developed products based on adrenal extracts containing varying purities of the active substance. In 1897 John Abel of Johns Hopkins University identified the active principle as epinephrine, which he isolated in an impure state as the sulfate salt. Industrial chemist Jokichi Takamine later developed a method for obtaining epinephrine in a pure state, and licensed the technology to Parke Davis. Parke Davis marketed epinephrine under the trade name Adrenalin. Injected epinephrine proved to be especially efficacious for the acute treatment of asthma attacks, and an inhaled version was sold in the United States until 2011 (Primatene Mist).By 1929 epinephrine had been formulated into an inhaler for use in the treatment of nasal congestion.
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