Ensuring Medicines for Tomorrow’s World
3. Policies on innovation: past, present and future POLICY AND INNOVATION Innovation – in the sense of the discovery or development of new and better medicines – is critical to addressing present and future public health needs. Official policies have sometimes sought to encourage or facilitate such innovation, or have done so incidentally. Governments have also been accused of discouraging innovation, especially by imposing excessive regulatory requirements, either on the process itself or on the products that emerge from it. In considering the various options for policy, it is important to consider the manner in which drug innovation comes about and the means by which it is likely to be attained in the future. ERAS OF INNOVATION Until early in the twentieth century, professional medicine was almost entirely reliant on an armory of relatively old medicines that had been in use for generations, and in some cases for centuries. The great bulk of these – such as opium as an analgesic, senna as a laxative and plant extracts containing tannin for use as astringents – were of herbal origin. As a rule, each was prepared by the local apothecary from the plants with which he was familiar. Much the same applied to the inorganic materials and substances of animal origin that were in use. Knowledge was largely passed on from one generation to the next through apprenticeship. Yet there was some formalized teaching of materia medica. And, since antiquity, a number of standard works on the subject had appeared, the oldest being that of...
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