Where are the new drugs?

Despite a doubling in both the budget of the National Institutes of Health and research-and-development spending by the pharmaceutical industry, the supply of truly new drugs has been dwindling. Part of the reason: a dramatic increase in the cost of drug development. What academic scientists and the federal government are doing to help.  read article

Taking the blinders off

The withdrawal of the blockbuster painkillers Vioxx and Bextra from the market illustrates the difficulty in predicting uncommon but serious side effects. Science may help solve this problem through the development of biomarkers, new imaging techniques and pharmacogenetics—understanding how genetic differences affect drug response. For cancer patients, this knowledge is being translated into more effective therapies.  read article

First, do no harm

Doctors are on the front line when it comes to detecting adverse drug reactions and side effects. It’s a hit-or-miss system, and efforts to improve post-marketing surveillance of approved pharmaceuticals have had only limited success. The creation of an independent drug safety board may help, but nothing can replace the vigilance, imagination and persistence of our “medical sleuths.”  read article

John Oates: A closer look

Looking through a camera lens was nothing new for John Oates, M.D., but this time the view was different. As he trained his new macro lens on a Spring Beauty, an ordinary pink and white wildflower that graces woody hillsides and uncultivated front lawns, he was struck by the extraordinary beauty of the magnified flower.  read article

Getting the drugs we need

Steven M. Paul, M.D., president of Lilly Research Laboratories, and Vanderbilt’s Alastair J.J. Wood, M.B., Ch.B., who chaired the recent FDA advisory panel on COX-2 inhibitors, tackle some of the economic and legal challenges facing the nation’s pharmaceutical industry. Among their suggestions: improved patent protection and other incentives to encourage the development of “the drugs that we need.”  read article

A Closer Look at Drugs

Just as imaging technologies are guiding and, in some cases, replacing the scalpel, they are revolutionizing the evaluation of new cancer drugs.

Traditionally, a drug’s effectiveness has been determined by its impact on patient survival, or by measuring the diameter of a tumor on a series of X-rays or CT scans taken over the course of several weeks.  read article

Drug discovery in the 21st century

Over the past decade, we have witnessed unparalleled advances in our understanding of basic biological processes that contribute to a host of human disorders. The highly celebrated elucidation of the sequence of the human genome and other technological gains have allowed identification of a broad range of regulatory proteins and complex signaling systems that play critical roles in a variety of normal physiological processes as well as pathological conditions in virtually all major organ systems.  read article

Why do drugs cost so much to develop … and to buy?

A major reason is the high attrition rate of promising compounds that never make it through the drug-development “pipeline” and its daunting succession of assays, studies and clinical trials.  read article

Thinking outside the cell

While most researchers plumb the depths of the cell to find drug targets for modern-day ailments, Billy Hudson, Ph.D, advances into the great expanse beyond the cells’ margins to uncover drug targets hidden in this extracellular netherworld.  read article

Viagra and the value of serendipity

Jackie Corbin, Ph.D., didn’t set out to develop a drug. He just wanted to do good science and understand how the body works.

He couldn’t have known at the outset of his career that his work would lay the foundation for the blockbuster drugs for erectile dysfunction: Viagra and related compounds.  read article

Why targeted cancer therapies have not hit the ‘bull’s-eye’

An informal search of medical news Web sites on any given day will typically return dozens of reports on the discovery of a new cancer-related gene, yet between 2000 and 2005 only five new agents were approved for the treatment of cancer.  read article

Once in a lifetime

For decades, scientists had searched unsuccessfully for a way to treat severe sepsis, a complication of bloodstream bacterial infections that kills 250,000 American adults every year. Then, in 1994, Vanderbilt sepsis researcher Gordon Bernard, M.D., was asked to lead a “long-shot” clinical trial of a promising drug. How a partnership with industry led to a “common good.”  read article

The critical path

During the past 20 years, Raymond L. Woosley, M.D., Ph.D., has contributed to current understanding of anti-arrhythmic drugs, helped discover the antihistamine Allegra and promoted post-marketing drug surveillance.  read article

The patient’s responsibility

No amount of work by the Food and Drug Administration can ensure the safety of the nation’s drug supply if doctors don’t prescribe or patients don’t take medication responsibly. But while medical and consumer education may improve drug safety, costs will probably continue to rise—and that may not be such a bad thing.  read article