Chapter 1: Creating a medicine: Why, how and how not
Throughout history, people have longed for newer and better medicines. For many centuries the principal source of remedies was the plant world; some of the medicines traditionally derived from plants have been adopted into modern scientific medicine; others, when tested methodically, have proved disappointing. The herbal tradition has by no means been fully explored but the quest continues; artemisinin, long used in Chinese medicine – in the form of a preparation of the plant artemisia annua – has for example in recent years been developed as a major tool in treating malaria. It was however the emergence of synthetic chemistry in nineteenth century laboratories that opened much wider perspectives, enabling entirely new substances to be created for medicinal purposes. During the last century and a half, much progress has been made towards meeting such needs, yet we still have far to go. It is good that, across the world, many thousands of people are engaged in devising and developing better ways of curing illness and relieving suffering. Unavoidably however, as in any other field of endeavour, there have been disappointments and errors on the way, as well as a degree of improper dealing. The rights and wrongs of behaviour in any field can only be judged if one is clear as to the standards by which it can be assessed.
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