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Blockbuster DrugsThe Rise and Fall of the Pharmaceutical Industry$
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Jie Jack Li

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199737680

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199737680.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 February 2021

Before the Age of Blockbuster Drugs

Before the Age of Blockbuster Drugs

Chapter:
1 Before the Age of Blockbuster Drugs
Source:
Title Pages
Author(s):

Jie Jack Li

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199737680.003.0004

Blockbuster drugs are drugs with annual sales over $1 billion these days. As a testimony of changing times, a blockbuster drug was defined as a drug with more than $500 million in annual sales just a decade ago! While these blockbuster drugs save millions of lives and improve the quality of life for millions of others, pharmaceutical companies make considerable profit. In turn, drug makers then spend a tremendous amount of money on research and development of new blockbuster drugs, looking for new ones that will sustain the “life cycle” for the health of both patients (physical and mental) and the drug companies themselves (financial). Pharmaceutical companies are sometimes known as “merchants of life.” Indeed, their products affect people’s lives in many positive ways. But make no mistake; the drug industry is a for-profit entity, responsible to its shareholders. It must make a profit to survive. This is the contradiction of the pharmaceutical industry. However, things were not always like this until the last few decades. The first antihistamine (the substance that counteracts the effects of histamine; see chapter 4 for more details) was discovered by French pharmacologist Daniel Bovet in 1937. Between 1937 and 1941, Bovet conducted more than 3,000 experiments to find the chemical formulas upon which most of the antihistamines now prescribed are based. Antihistamines are effective in treating allergic reactions. His discovery led to development of the first antihistamine drug, diphenhydramine (Antergan), for treating allergies in 1942, but it did not reach the market because of toxicity issues. In 1944, another one of Bovet’s discoveries, pyrilamine (Neoantergan), was produced as a drug. He did not patent it and did not make a penny out of his important discovery. Not all was lost, however; Bovet won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1957. General Robert Wood Johnson (1845–1910), one of the three brothers who founded Johnson & Johnson, wrote a credo that codified the company’s socially responsible approach to conducting business.

Keywords:   Allergy drugs, Clinical trials, Donations, Exubera, Ivermectin (Mectizan), Mayo Cilnic, Patents, River blindness, Streptomycin, Torcetrapib

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