Now finally, let us grant that all the claims made for a new drug are true, that with it we can do this or that, as alleged. Do we really need all the time all the things that all the new drugs will give us? With full realization of the probable absurdity of the comparison, I am nevertheless going to liken political man’s possession of his new military weaponry with medical man’s acquisition of his new pharmaceutical arsenal. The time is not yet here when the decision will have to be made whether to drop the hydrogen bomb or not to drop it, but all the world is quivering with fear that such a moment is imminent, and men of good will everywhere are agitating for restriction of the use of this dreadful new power to those activities only of mankind wherein his best survival interests can be selectively aided.
Progress has been made with such giant strides in recent decades that one is tempted at times to bemoan the smallness of the territories still to be conquered. But for the pharmacologist at least, whatever the feeling may be in other circles, there exists a sufficient and powerful antidote for his ego in the large list of areas in which drugs are still badly needed.
During each of the past ten years the pharmaceutical industry has produced an average of approximately 400 new products. In the most recent year of record, 1957, the number is said to have been precisely 400, and 51 of these were single new chemicals. Many of the agents are produced in refined form in amounts that are absurdly small in relation to the bulk of the crude materials from which they are processed.