Month: July 2019

Recent advances in medicine research

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Medicines have been in existence since the dawn of humanity. In the start, there were only simple and traditional ways to cure the ailments such as the crude extracts from the plants and the spiritual ways. These used these extracts from different plants such as gum Arabic, aloe, lavender, gingko, bitter melon, and many others to treat a different kind of ailments such as pain, fever, and others.

But since the dawn of the new era, there have been a lot of advancements in this field. Because of the latest technologies, resources and a better understanding of the diseases and their possible outcomes and preventive measures, a lot of new medicines have been introduced to the world. This is an ever-evolving field and new advancements keep happening because of a number of reasons. 

Reasons for the newest medicine research

On a daily basis, a new drug or a better alternative of a drug is introduced to the world because of the following reasons.

  • The onset of the new and life-threatening diseases
  • Need for a new dosage form of an existing medicine
  • Unwanted effects of an existing drug
  • Fast acting and more accurate dosage form
  • Safety and efficacy issues of the drugs

The reasons given here are just some of the many reasons that encourage the introduction of new medicine.

Why is there a need for the new medicine?

Field of medicine has gotten so vast in the past few decades but as this field advances, there have been increased rates of onset of the new diseases. A number of diseases that were life-threatening before such as malaria, polio, viral infections, and many others have either been eradicated from most of the planet or have medicine that is a 100% effective in treating them. But the new diseases that were unheard of before came into existence or the pre-existing diseases got much worse and mortality rates increased due to these diseases. Some of the examples of these diseases are:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Dengue fever
  • Tuberculosis
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Hepatitis C

These and many other deadly diseases have left no option for the scientists but to find a cure for them using the newest technology and the most advanced research tools and equipment.

Latest advances in medicine research

According to a recent study, it has been estimated that the FDA approved more than 500 new medicines for use after the year 2000. Some of the recent and key advances in the medical field are given here below.

Gene therapy

Gene therapy is a process in which modifications in the patient’s hereditary material i.e. DNA are done. The drugs that are used on a daily basis often treat the symptoms of the diseases or cure them for a short time and after that, the disease comes back. But with gene therapy modifications at the DNA level happen and the diseases are cured by eradicating the basic cause by its roots.

Gene therapy is a promising option to treat different types of cancer such as breast cancer, leukemia and other diseases such as sickle cell anemia and skin disorders.

3D printing technologies

3D printing is one of the most promising fields that will make scientists able to explore new ways in medical research. Using this technology, artificial body parts will be made that will work just like the original body parts. It has been in the news that an artificial ear has been introduced to the world that works using the same mechanism that our body uses and an artificial liver plant is expected to come into existence by 2020.

Medicines to cure hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is considered as one of the life-threatening diseases and around 12,000 people die every year because of this disease. There are drugs that can cure these diseases, but they are much expensive and require an extensive period of treatment and have side effects that are very undesirable. A new drug by the name Sofosbuvir has been introduced into the market which is supposed to cure Hepatitis C completely with little side effects.

Research in antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is one of the major problems of the current time and drugs already present are unable to cure infections caused by them such as gut infections and respiratory infections. A new class of antibiotic drugs has been introduced in the market which has been named Teixobactin. This class has proven efficient in completely eradicating the resistant bacterial classes such as MRSA and completely curing the diseases like tuberculosis and septicemia.

All of the above and many other types of research such as hormone replacement therapy, transplants, and stem cell research are being done to enhance the quality of life. These advancements are thought to be able to treat untreatable conditions such as cancer and find new options for patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

History of drug development in Africa

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Drug development is a process in which the newest and the latest drugs are formulated according to the need of the time. These drugs are meant for the most lethal, most prevalent and most common diseases. Drug development is a sequential process and developing a new drug or updating the ones that are already in the market takes a lot of time.

Although Africa was not participating actively in the past in drug development due to their financial crisis and many other reasons such as politics, now this continent is considered as the new frontier in this field. Africa has been playing a remarkable role in drug development and is still one of the leading continents in this regard. Due to the prevalence of a lot of diseases such as cholera, malaria, HIV/AIDS, strokes, and many others, Africa has taken an active part in the newest medicine research.

Drug development in Africa in the past

As it is told above, Africa has not been taking an active part in drug development in the past due to a list of reasons. In the past, African countries were struggling with their own problems so they didn’t give much attention to drug development. These problems still exist in these countries but they are diverting their attention more towards this ever-evolving field.

In the past, medicinal plants were the main sources of drugs for different types of diseases and ailments. They didn’t have access to the drugs from the rest of the world, so they relied mostly on these medicinal plants. Due to their low economy, they couldn’t afford the newest medicines and they didn’t have any option but to consult to the practitioners in their local areas. These practitioners were the most suitable and most affordable options for them. 

Africa didn’t participate in the drug development field due to:

  • Their pre-existing financial problems
  • Political problems
  • Low economy
  • Limited access to resources from the rest of the world
  • Limited or non-existent technology
  • The high cost of the process
  • Low literacy rates

There were a number of plants that have been used as the basic and most accessible options for treatment purposes. These medicinal plants are still in use and many people rely on it. 

Medicinal plants used in Africa

Here is a list of some medicinal plants that were used in the past and are still in use. 

  • Gum Arabic
  • Wormwood
  • Bitter Aloe or Cape Aloe
  • Madagascan Periwinkle
  • Devil’s Claw
  • Bitter Melon
  • Umckaloabo

All of the above and many other medicinal plants have been used and are still in use as traditional medicine for different conditions such malaria, bacterial infections, injuries, HIV/AIDS and many other life-threatening diseases.

Historical references of Africa in drug development

In the last 200 years, the concept of western medicine has taken its flight to the current level. Before this, only the traditional plants and other sources were used as medicine. The medicinal plants that have been used in the past practice were adopted according to the latest requirements and the newest medicine came into existence with the help of those plants. Same happened with African countries too, but the evolution in the medical field came a little late to this continent. Some references of the physicians or medical experts and medical scientists can be found in the literature. Some of these references are provided here.

  • Thomas Winterbottom, Physician to the Colony of Sierra Leone from 1792 to 1796.
  • John Atkins’ description of ‘the sleepy Distemper in Negroes’ in 1721 in his book “The Navy surgeon”
  • Edinburgh Missionary Society founded for the purpose of training medical students for missionary work in 1841 by John Abercrombie
  • The work of white fathers and white sisters in East Africa in 1878 and in 1899 
  • Mary Kingsley published her work in West African Studies in 1899

All of the above researchers and physicians worked really hard for the African community and their well-being but there was still a need of latest and most effective medicines.

Current status of drug development in Africa

It was because of the many epidemics and a lot of persistent diseases that African countries felt the need for the latest technology for drug development. After 1990, the newest technologies were being used by the researchers to develop new drugs for themselves and for the rest of the world. Institutions such as the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and African academy are leading the frontier and new drugs are being developed in Africa.