Throughout history, medical advances in drug development have been critical in assisting the survival of vast populations of humans, curing life-threatening conditions, and advancing medical and scientific knowledge to shape the future of healthcare.
We've compiled a list of the top ten most influential drugs in history based on two criteria. First, drugs developed for life-threatening conditions are at the top of the list, as their discovery and implementation has frequently paved the way for further development that has wiped out or reduced the severity of conditions.
Second, we must consider the drug's scale of use and the number of people it has been used to treat.
Ether - 1846
The drug works by suppressing people's brain activity to the point where major operations can be performed without causing pain. More modern and effective anaesthetics have been developed in recent decades, but ether paved the way, establishing it as one of the most important drugs ever discovered.
Polio vaccine - 1955
In the past, polio was one of the leading causes of disability in the world, caused by a virus that infects the throat and intestinal tract. Since 2000, the only polio vaccine given in the United States has been the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
You can get it via shot in your arm or leg, depending on your age. Other countries use the OPV (oral polio vaccine). According to the CDC, four doses of polio vaccine are required for children.
All but a few regions of the world have been free of the disease. A vaccination is still given to children starting school because the virus is still present.
Aspirin - 1899
Because of its side effects, aspirin is not recommended for people suffering from muscle pain, arthritis, headaches, or toothaches; however, aspirin is an excellent choice for its analgesic properties. It may also be used to treat pain and swelling associated with conditions such as arthritis. Aspirin is a salicylate that is also used as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS).
HIV protease inhibitors - 1990
In 1981, HIV infection was first documented in San Francisco and New York City, and four years later, it was identified as the causative agent of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Protease inhibitors, which are among the most important HIV drugs, work by binding to proteolytic enzymes (proteases). This impairs their ability to function. HIV is not cured by protease inhibitors. However, by inhibiting proteases, they can prevent HIV from reproducing.
Though chemotherapy is an effective treatment for many types of cancer, it also has a risk of side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are minor and easily treated, while others can lead to serious complications.
Chemotherapy is a medication that kills rapidly growing cells in your body by using strong chemicals. Chemotherapy is most commonly used to treat cancer because cancer cells grow and multiply much faster than the rest of the body's cells.
Smallpox vaccine - 1798
The vaccine for smallpox is no longer widely available. Smallpox has long been regarded as one of the most dangerous diseases humans have ever encountered. It was one of the first diseases to be eliminated from the planet in the 19th century. One of humanity's greatest accomplishments is the elimination of smallpox.
Insulin - 1922
Diabetes and its acute complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic states, are treated with insulin.
It is also used in conjunction with glucose to treat high potassium levels in the blood. Previously, insulin was used in a psychiatric treatment known as insulin shock therapy.
Chlorpromazine - 1951
Chlorpromazine is a phenothiazine (FEEN-oh-THYE-a-zeen) that is used to treat psychotic disorders in adults such as schizophrenia or manic-depression. Chlorpromazine is also used to treat nausea and vomiting in adults, anxiety before surgery, chronic hiccups, acute intermittent porphyria, and tetanus symptoms.
The drug's mechanics also allowed researchers to gain a better understanding of its effect on neurotransmitters in the brain and how impulses passed from one neuron to the next. This finding would prove crucial in quest to gain a better understanding of the causes of mental illness.
Morphine - 1827
For moderate to severe pain, a morphine injection is the most effective method. Additionally, an anesthetic may be used in conjunction with it before or during surgery (medicine that puts you to sleep).
Analgesics that contain narcotics, like morphine, are known as narcotic analgesics (pain medicines). It directly affects the brain's central nervous system to alter the perception and emotional response to the pain.
Penicillin - 1942
Penicillin V potassium is used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections, scarlet fever, and infections of the ear, skin, gums, mouth, and throat.