Editor's Page  
  June 20, 2005
Volume 83, Number 25
p. 5

  Top Pharmaceuticals  


This week's special issue of C&EN on "Top Pharmaceuticals: A Look At Drugs That Changed Our World" has been nearly a year in the making. After our News of the Week and Concentrates pages, the entire issue is devoted to a series of essays on the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry and 46 drugs ranging from Allegra to vitamins. Even Newscripts joins in.

Unlike previous special issues that celebrated C&EN's 75th and 80th anniversaries, the 125th anniversary of ACS, and the millennium, the Top Pharmaceuticals issue grew out of a discussion among C&EN's senior staff and Jim Byrne, Ben Jones, and Ken Carroll, who head up the C&EN advertising sales force. Indeed, the special issue has attracted a great deal of advertising for which we are grateful.

We decided early on that the bulk of the issue would be a series of C&EN staff-written essays on a wide variety of drugs that have had a major impact on human society and the development of the pharmaceutical industry. The selection of drugs for coverage was, by necessity, selective, not comprehensive. We sought input from C&EN's readers and staff and historians at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF). In many cases, one drug stands in for a whole class of drugs.

The list we settled on undoubtedly omits worthy candidates, and I am sure readers will point out many drugs they feel should have been included. The point here, however, is not which drugs were included and which excluded, but that the development of a broad spectrum of pharmaceuticals over the past 150 years has been a remarkable scientific and intellectual achievement that has had as profound an impact on society as any other comparable advance.

After settling on a list of drugs for coverage, we asked C&EN's staff to volunteer for drugs to write about. C&EN Managing Editor Pamela Zurer, Assistant Managing Editor Linda Raber, and I made the final assignments. Nearly every member of C&EN's 55-person staff contributed essays. As most of the essays are a single page--a handful of particularly noteworthy drugs such as aspirin and thalidomide occupy two pages--we asked the writers to focus in on particular aspects of the drug. The result is, I think, a delightful variety of essay topics that focus on discovery, synthesis, process chemistry, regulation, and societal impact.

Forty-six one- and two-page essays need an anchor, an essay to put them into perspective. C&EN News Editor William Schulz suggested that we contact Mary Ellen Bowden of CHF to write an introductory essay on the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry. Bill, Pam, Linda, and I met with Mary Ellen and outlined our ideas. Mary Ellen subsequently enlisted CHF's Arthur A. Daemmerich as a coauthor, and Bill worked closely with them in developing the essay. The result is a highly readable and informative examination of the forces that have shaped the pharmaceutical industry.

A few housekeeping matters:

  • Additional material on several of the drugs is on C&EN Online; this is noted in the box accompanying the essay and on the contents page.
  • The drug name heading the box that accompanies each essay is the official USAN name.
  • At the back of this issue are two indexes. One lists the 46 drugs by therapeutic class. The other is a comprehensive cross listing, including alternative names for the subject drugs as well as drugs mentioned in the historical introduction and in the essays.

A special issue such as this turns into a labor of love. Every member of C&EN's staff has contributed to it in some way. I hope you find it as informative and enjoyable to read as I have.

Thanks for reading.

  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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