In GCSE Science students will look at drugs, both recreational and medical. This is the first of two quizzes on the subject and it concentrates on medical drugs and how they are tested in drug trials.
Humans have developed a wide range of drugs to help maintain health. Two of the most commonly used are painkillers and antibiotics but there are many others - antiinflammatory, steroids, anti-cancer and heart drugs to name but a few. Scientists are continually developing new drugs but when new medical drugs are devised, they have to be extensively tested and trialled before being used. It can take several years from developing the drug to using it on patients. They are tested in a series of stages to find out if they are safe and effective. New drugs are extensively tested for toxicity, efficiency and dose.
How exactly are drugs tested? Well, the first stage takes place in a laboratory where drugs are tested on cells, tissues and live animals. If they pass those tests, clinical trials take place using volunteers. The doses are gradually increased until the best is found. These trials are carried out under controlled conditions.
During the 1950s, a drug was developed as a sedative or sleeping pill. It was called thalidomide. It was subsequently sold to pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. A lot of these women then gave birth to children whose limbs had not developed properly, around half of the children subsequently died. Thalidomide was taken off the market. How did this happen? It was only tested for its efficiency as a sedative and was assumed to be safe. It is now just used to treat certain types of cancer and leprosy. Following this terrible error, drug testing rules were made much stricter.