10 Important Drugs Discovered by AccidentSome of medicines greatest discoveries have come about quite by accident. The world ofchemistry is a difficult place and the chemist will take any break he or she can get. Everythingfrom the cure of one of the worlds most terrible diseases to the way we pay to look has comeabout in an off-road kind of way. In many cases, these discoveries were made just in time. Sokick back, pop a valium, and enjoy the Top Ten Important Drugs Discovered by Accident List,then let us know what your favorite prescription drug is and why! Someone on our staff is partialto Xanex. The rest of us are clean as your grandmas scalp.ProntosilChemistry student Paul Gelmo first reported the synthesis of Prontosil in 1909. While he knewhow to break it down and make it pretty, he had no idea it had medical value and would one daybe used to help cure a U.S. Presidents son. It was not until 22 years later, when Bayer chemistsspent five long years testing thousand upon thousands of compounds related to AZO dyes that itsmedicinal use as an antibiotic was realized. While it was used and gained notoriety in treatingand curing Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. of a streptococcal throat infection that was so bad, thewhite house medical staff was contemplating a risky surgical procedure, and was heralded in the
newspapers as a breakthrough in the first sulfonamide antibacterial chemotherapy treatment, itwas not a prosperous drug for Bayer. Instead, it opened the door for a new era of sulfa drugs.MustineNow this is a first. You always hear about how the brave veterans that fought our wars wererewarded with posttraumatic stress syndrome or by getting some devastating form of cancer fromchemical warfare. Well now, the situation is completely reversed! A chemical agent developedfor warfare has actually proven itself worthy of existence. What is even more surprising is that itis one of the Mustard gasses. A weapon that was once used to kill the enemyis now used to kill another enemy…, CANCER! If this is not the coolest thing I have learned thisyear, you can brush my teeth and call me smiley. Mustargen, (nitrogen mustard HN2) is ablistering agent that was and is used to do just that. Dropped from a field artillery gun, usuallythe split-tailed 155-millimeter howitzer, using the same kind of shell as white phosphorousrounds that are designed to explode in the air above the target area, the Mustargen gas wouldcover the enemy. It would blister and boil the skin, render the eyes useless, and infiltrate thelungs, burning away the lining, which resulted in severe lung burns. It could be fatal and wascertainly debilitating.Now scientists have found that in our infinite warlike wisdom, we also developed a weapon thatwe can use with chemotherapy against an even worse evil, the big C. It infiltrates the cancer cellsand binds them, preventing them from splitting and eventually killing them. Ah, the little ironiesof life--enjoy them while you are young. When you get older, they become annoying regrets.
Nitrous OxideI think I would have liked to discover this gas myself. Nitrous Oxide wasfirst synthesized by chemist Joseph Priestley in 1772. It was used primarily at laughing gasparties thrown by the rich and famous. It was not until years later that anyone benefited from itsanesthetic qualities. This laughing gas was first used medicinally in dental offices and clinics andit is still used by dentists worldwide today. While it is not strong enough to play an operatingtheater solo, it is given before and sometimes with ether to knock out a patient for surgery orother procedure. This discovery is a gas from the life of the party to the sleep on the operatingtable, man--what a ride!CisplatinThis remarkable and revolutionary drug, which can form irreversible cross-links to bases inDNA, changed the way cancer is treated. It is most commonly used as achemotherapy drug and attacks solid malignancies. Its ability to cross-link DNA allows it to trickthe bad cells into thinking they need repair. The bad cells release a chemical process that issupposed to repair them but it cannot so it does the only other thing it can, it eliminates the cell itthinks is damaged and cant be repaired. In essence, the cancerous cells kill themselves. It is anamazing drug and the news gets even better. Scientists have discovered that if you use Cisplatinin conjunction with CV247 it decreases the severity of the very damaging side effects by 80%.
Cisplatin was first identified in 1845, at that time it was called Peyrone’s salt and was originallydeveloped for molecular theory experiments. In the mid-sixties, Cisplatin’s antitumor activitywas revealed, and it has served as the gold standard against which newer antitumor drugs arecompared. Cisplatin had a big role in helping multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrongto fight testicular cancer.WarfarinIt sounds like something that would cause bloodshed (war-fare-in) but it is actually just theopposite. Warfarin is used to clot blood and to prevent blood clots from moving. It is the mostwidely used anticoagulant in North America--unless of course, you happen to be a rat or amouse. Warfarin was originally developed as a pesticide against rodents. In fact, it is still on themarket for just that, even though other pesticides that are more effective have been developed.Smallpox VaccineSmallpox killed more than 300 million people and that is just in the 20th century. God onlyknows how many the killer disease took throughout the course of history. There is one thing thatwe do know, when the vaccine for smallpox was created, we got it wrong. At first, we vaccinatedourselves with the smallpox disease itself. Women would collect the scabs from the sores, grindthem into powder, and then blow them up the noses of people who wanted vaccination. Theperson would get sick for a week to ten days and then get better, never getting the full-blowndisease. However, it would kill many people. The percentage was much lower than the rampantspread of the disease but people were dying by one in 50. Someone finally realized that anyonethat worked around cows, had exposure to cowpox, which is a much milder form of chickenpox,
would be immune to chickenpox, and never suffer from it. That is when we wised up and startedvaccinating with cowpox instead, bringing the number of deaths way down to almost zero.Today we enjoy total eradication of chickenpox with the exception of two known samples keptin heavily secured areas for study and protection, one in the USA and another in Russia.Botulinum ToxinThis was discovered in the fat of spoiled pork and called botulism by the physician who figuredout a medicinal use for it. Weirdly enough, in the 1960s it wasused to correct cross-eyed syndrome. People whose eyes did not line up properly receiveadjustments with this substance. It wasnt until the late 80s that Botox became useful in facialtwitches. It does not take a genius to figure out what happened next. A plastic surgeon inHollywood used it to fix something on someones face that was not wrong to begin with for anextraordinary amount of money and the rest, as they say…, is history! Anything that can smoothout wrinkles is bound to be popular in our vain society.ValiumBenzodiazepines came out in the 1950s and their uses were discovered quite by accident. Duringtesting being done on a chemical dye initially synthetized for other purpose, it was revealed thatit would have the hypnotic, muscle relaxing effects that we enjoy today. It was not long beforevalium was developed as well. Finally, after so many years of developing all those boringantibiotics and life saving crap, someone finally discovered something cool. At first, the publicwas crazy about it. It did not take long for those breaks to squall on the road, let me tell you. Thatold; “if it is too good to be true it probably still is true but it must be bad for you” feeling cameover everyone except of course, the housewives of the day, and everyone started griping. Still,where would the stressed out alcoholic turn if he did not have valium? The corner bar would bemy guess.
PenicillinIt was very serendipitous indeed, in the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928when Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered he had accidentally left the lid off a petri dish withstaphylococcus in it. What a wonderful discovery it was when he noticed the bluish moldgrowing inside and the dying, inhibited ring of staphylococcus growth. Penicillin is discovered!After many years of trying to produce it in mass quantities and figuring out how to use it, itbecame readily available just before the breakout of war. By 1944, the U.S. had produced 2.3million doses of penicillin. It is estimated that penicillin saved some 15% of amputations fromtaking place during WWII.ViagraAlmost anyone who has been within fifty feet of a pharmacy knows who Pfizer is. Just askanyone and he or she will tell you, "They are the guys that make the boner pills, right?" Correct!However, that is not what they were attempting to do. They weretrying to up with something to treat hypertension and a heart disease known as ischaemic heartdisease. It was supposed to relax the smooth muscle so that the right side of the heart would nothave to work as hard. Well, it relaxed smooth muscle all right. It relaxed the smooth muscle ofthe penis, allowing the chambers to fill up with blood and become hard as a rock.Now if they could come up with something that increased my peckers IQ, maybe it would makebetter decisions for me.