The First Miracle Drugs: How the Sulfa Drugs Transformed Medicine

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9780195187755: The First Miracle Drugs: How the Sulfa Drugs Transformed Medicine
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In the decade from 1935-1945, while the Second World War raged in Europe, a new class of medicines capable of controlling bacterial infections launched a therapeutic revolution that continues today. The new medicines were not penicillin and antibiotics, but sulfonamides, or sulfa drugs. The sulfa drugs preceded penicillin by almost a decade, and during World War II they carried the main therapeutic burden in both military and civilian medicine. Their success stimulated a rapid expansion of research and production in the international pharmaceutical industry, raised expectations of medicine, and accelerated the appearance of new and powerful medicines based on research. The latter development created new regulatory dilemmas and unanticipated therapeutic problems. The sulfa drugs also proved extraordinarily fruitful as starting points for new drugs or classes of drugs, both for bacterial infections and for a number of important non-infectious diseases. This book examines this breakthrough in medicine, pharmacy, and science in three parts. Part I shows that an industrial research setting was crucial to the success of the revolution in therapeutics that emerged from medicinal chemistry. Part II shows how national differences shaped the reception of the sulfa drugs in Germany, France, Britain, and the United States. The author uses press coverage of the day to explore popular perceptions of the dramatic changes taking place in medicine. Part III documents the impact of the sulfa drugs on the American effort in World War II. It also shows how researchers came to an understanding of how the sulfa drugs worked, adding a new theoretical dimension to the science of pharmacology and at the same time providing a basis for the discovery of new medicinal drugs in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. A concluding chapter summarizes the transforming impact of the sulfa drugs on twentieth-century medicine, tracing the therapeutic revolution from the initial breakthrough in the 1930s to the current search for effective treatments for AIDS and the new horizons opened up by the human genome project and stem cell research.

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About the Author:

John E. Lesch is a Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley.

Review:


"The book's strongest points--and most enjoyable--deal with the cultural, political, and economic influences on drug development...I found the book valuable as an insightful record of the history of the first miracle drugs."--Doody's


"The lesson...gleaned from reading The First Miracle Drugs is that it is possible to facilitate creative discovery, in this case of lifesaving drugs, through a systematic program that supports interdisciplinary research."--JAMA


"Lesch...has written a tour de force in this comprehensive history of the sulfa drugs. Its thoroughness, in all aspects, especially the contextual nature of his analysis, is quite simply astounding...This book will stand the test of time and become the standard work on history of the sulfa drug for years to come."--Journal of the History of Medicine


"The book's strongest points--and most enjoyable--deal with the cultural, political, and economic influences on drug development...I found the book valuable as an insightful record of the history of the first miracle drugs."--Doody's


"The lesson...gleaned from reading The First Miracle Drugs is that it is possible to facilitate creative discovery, in this case of lifesaving drugs, through a systematic program that supports interdisciplinary research."--JAMA


"Lesch...has written a tour de force in this comprehensive history of the sulfa drugs. Its thoroughness, in all aspects, especially the contextual nature of his analysis, is quite simply astounding...This book will stand the test of time and become the standard work on history of the sulfa drug for years to come."--Journal of the History of Medicine


"...a true eye-opener on the role of sulfa drugs in mid-twentieth century medicine, placing them firmly in the context of the larger histories of science, medicine, and pharmacology. It looks likely to be essential reading for years to come for anyone with a scholarly interest in its subject."--Medical History


"John Lesch accomplishes a great deal with this exhaustively researched and well-written narrative about a chapter in the history of science and medicine that has recevied surprisingly little attendtion. The First Miracle Drugs superbly explores the historical importance of sulfa drugs, persuasively showing how they sparked an expansion of pharmaceutical research and production... In sum, Lesch's book is model scholarship for the history of science." -- Alexandra Minna Stern, Ph.D., University of Michigan, Bulletin for the History of Chemistry


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