8. The development of drugs to combat disease
Doc Brown's biology exam revision study notes
There are various sections to work through,
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INDEX of notes on non-communicable diseases
(8) drugs development
Know that medical drugs are developed and
must be tested before
being used to relieve illness or
Drugs like aspirin and
paracetamol are relatively safe and widely used as analgesics
Anti-cancer drugs are a big area
of development in the pharmaceutical industry, though they often have side
effects, and must be thoroughly tested before licensed for use.
Be aware that drugs may also be used recreationally as people like the effect on the
Know that some drugs are addictive,
and not always those you think of as dangerous.
Know that some athletes take drugs to improve performance.
Appreciate that people cannot make sensible
decisions about drugs unless
they know their full effects.
Given data-information, you are
expected to use your acquired skills, knowledge
and understanding to:
evaluate the effect of statins in cardiovascular
evaluate different types of drugs and why some
people use illegal drugs for recreation,
evaluate claims made about the effect of prescribed
and non-prescribed drugs on health,
consider the possible progression from recreational
drugs to hard drugs,
evaluate the use of drugs to enhance performance in
sport and to consider the ethical implications of
Appreciate that scientists are continually developing new drugs.
Know that when new medical drugs are devised, they have to
be extensively tested and trialled before being used.
Know that new drugs are
constantly being developed and must be tested in a series of stages to find out if
they are safe and effective.
Know that new drugs are extensively tested for
toxicity (serious side-effects),
efficacy (capacity for producing the desired medical effect) and dose
(effect of different amounts):
know drugs are tested in the laboratory, using cells, tissues
first and then live
animals, but drugs that affect the whole body eg a blood pressure reducing drug,
a blood cancer drug etc., can only be satisfactorily tested in the end by
using 'real people'.
know that clinical trials involve healthy volunteers
Very low doses of the drug are
given at the start of the clinical trial to look for side-effects.
If the drug
is found to be safe, further clinical trials are
carried out to find the optimum dose for the
drug - the dose that is most effective with little side-effects.
In some double blind trials, some patients
are given a placebo, which does not contain the
A placebo, which is delivered
like the actual drug (eg look and taste), contains no medication and enables
the clinicians to distinguish the effects of the drug from the volunteers
who have not received the drug.
Its a sort of 'fair test' or
'blank check' idea should be familiar with in your school laboratory under
the heading 'How Science Works'.
You can even do an extra check
to avoid 'human bias' by doing a 'double-blind' drug trial in which the
doctors or pharmaceutical scientist don't know who is or is not given the
drug until all the results are collated. This hopefully avoids any prejudice
on the part those conducting the trial.
Neither the doctors nor the patients know
who has received a placebo and who has
received the drug until the trial is complete.
You should understand that tissues and animals
are used as models to predict how the drugs may
behave in humans.
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