10 Drug Approvals That Changed the Future of Medicine

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by Wendy Henderson |

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When people think of wonder drugs they think back to Alexander Fleming’s penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic. They may also think of aspirin, used as a painkiller and also as an anti-clotting agent for patients with a high risk of stroke or heart failure.

But there are thousands of drugs that have changed the course of history, saving lives and enhancing the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

Here are some of the biggest approvals in the last 10 years:

Ofev (nintedanib)
Ofev is an anti-fibrotic drug used for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). It was approved by the FDA in October 2014 and works by inhibiting certain enzymes that promote the production of collagen which contributes to fibrosis of the lungs, slowing down the progression of the disease.

MORE: First patient enrolled in a trial of Ofev for progressive fibrosing interstitial lung disease. 

Esbriet (pirfenidone)
Esbriet was approved by the FDA in October 2014 to treat mild to moderate cases of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Esbriet is both anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory so helps to slow down fibrosis of the lungs as well as reduce inflammation, helping to extend and improve the quality of life for patients with the disease.

MORE: Esbriet can prolong patients lives, several studies find.

Prozac (Fluoxetine)
Used for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, panic attacks and bulimia, Prozac is the world’s most widely prescribed antidepressant. Approved by the FDA in December 1987, Prozac works by controlling the serotonin levels in the brain. Source: World History Project

MORE: New knowledge about Ofev and Esbriet may lead to better lung fibrosis therapies.

Zidovudine (AZT)
Zidovudine (also known as AZT) is a drug used for HIV and AIDS patients and was approved by the FDA in 1987. It reduces the amount of HIV in a patient’s body. It is often used in conjunction with lamivudine and abacavir to help stop or slow the production of HIV, allowing the patient’s immune system to build and making them less susceptible to potentially deadly infections. (Source: Aidsmap.com)

MORE: IPF patients treated with Esbriet live 2.5 times longer than those not treated.

In 1922, Canadian doctor Frederick Banting discovered that extracting insulin from the pancreas of a dog could help diabetic patients. The insulin was later taken from pigs and cows rather than dogs but some patients had an allergic reaction to it. Genentech created the first synthetic insulin in 1978—recombinant DNA insulin—which didn’t cause any allergic reactions and could be mass produced, changing the lives of diabetes patients all over the world. (Source: howstuffworks.com)

MORE: Esbriet can treat IPF long-term regardless of the initial severity of the disease.

Digoxin is derived from the digitalis plant (foxglove) and is a drug used for patients who have an irregular heartbeat or have suffered heart failure. The drug makes the heart beat faster and pump more blood around the body. It was first available as an injection in 1982 and then in a tablet form in 1997. (Source: everydayhealth.com)

MORE: Ofev successfully used to treat an acute episode of IPF, prompting a call for studies.

Rifampicin (Rifadin)
Rifampicin is one of the leading drugs used to treat tuberculosis. It is an antibiotic that can also be used to treat MRSA where other antibiotics have failed. It was introduced to the world in 1967. (Source: Rifampicin.com)

MORE: Phase 3 data from IMPULSIS confirms the efficiency of Ofev as IPF treatment.

Widely used for the treatment of asthma and other lung diseases such as bronchiectasis and COPD. The drug was discovered in 1966 and used as an inhaler treatment in 1969.

MORE: Ofev is seen to be safe and efficient for long-term use in patients with IPF.

Birth Control Pill
The contraceptive pill revolutionized the lives of women in the 1960s. First marketed as a drug to treat menstrual disorders, its birth control properties meant that women had smaller families and were able to pursue careers outside of the home. It was first introduced in the U.K. to married women in 1961. (Source: BBC.co.uk)

MORE: Ofev stabilizes lung function in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients.

Levodopa is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and derived from the vicia faba (fava bean) plant. Levodopa (or L-dopa) converts into dopamine, the chemical in the brain lost in Parkinson’s patients. It has been used as a treatment for the disease since the late 1960s. (Source: stylecraze.com)

MORE: Trial to evaluate Ofev impact on predictive biomarkers for IPF progression begins.

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