10 Medicines that Changed the World


Penicillin – It was discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming. Antibiotic, People began using in 1942 to treat infections and it is used to treat infections caused by certain susceptible bacteria.
Insulin – A natural protein, it needs to be administered as medicine for diabetic patients. First used in 1922 by Frederick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip. It is used to treat diabetes and complications arising due to it and used along with glucose to treat high blood potassium levels.

Ether/General Anesthesia – The use of anaesthesia can be traced back to ancient civilizations when opium and other natural substances were used for the purpose. The first public demonstration of the use of Ether as an anaesthetic was done in 1846 by William T.G. Morton. Diethyl Ether or Ether is an organic compound holding anaesthetic properties and was widely used during surgeries until 2005.
Morphine – A pain medication extracted from plants which belong to the opiate family. First isolated during the years 1803-1805 by Friedrich Serturner and commercially available in 1827. It acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to suppress the feeling of pain and is used to treat chronic, acute, myocardial and labour pain and can be administered orally or injected.

Aspirin – A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) was first created in 1853 by French Chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt and rechristened as Aspirin by Bayer for commercial use. It is used to treat pain, fever and inflammation in general and used specifically in case of heart attacks, and certain types of cancer.
Chlorpromazine – It was discovered in 1950 by chemist Paul Charpentier and was later produced as the first antipsychotic medicine. Commonly marketed under the name of Thorazine it is used to treat psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder among others.

Oral Contraceptives – Oral Contraceptive pills are a method of hormonal contraception for birth control taken by women. In 1950 Margaret Sanger jotted down her research findings to develop a birth control pill and in 1960, the first pill was approved. Some pills contain both estrogen and progestin while some contain only progestin. They prevent fertilization by inhibiting ovulation and thickening cervical mucus and depend on the user’s adherence to the dosage.

Statins – Statins are a class of lipid-lowering medicines that effectively reduce LDL cholesterol. Commonly sold as atorvastatin under the trade name Lipitor among others, it was first isolated by biochemist Akira Endo and approved for medical use in 1996. It is used to prevent cardiovascular diseases and abnormal lipid levels.
Mechlorethamine – Also known as Chlormethine and HN2 is a cytotoxic chemotherapy agent derived from mustard gas. Once used in warfare, their medical utility was first established by a team led by Cornelius P. Rhoads. Its derivatives are used to treat cancer and lymphoid malignancies like Hodgkin’s disease, prostate cancer and leukaemia.
Antiretroviral – Multiple Antiretroviral Medicines are  used to manage HIV/AIDS during the Antiretroviral Therapy. Taken in combination, these drugs prevent the growth of the virus to slow down and control the disease. The therapy first started as a solution to the dreaded disease in 1996.

  • Sneha Sinha-Editor

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