AbstractUntil the 1950s almost all products used as human pharmaceuticals were either of natural origin or were synthetic or semi-synthetic copies of natural compounds. There then began a chemical revolution in the pharmaceutical industry which ensured that for the next 30 years, with the exception of antibiotics, almost all new drugs developed were hitherto unknown new chemical compounds. As a result, a generation of managers grew up in the industry which completely forgot that, historically, most medicines have been derived from natural products. Four separate influences have combined to begin to reverse this trend. First, many of the new synthetic drugs turned out to have unacceptable side effects. Second, several important disease areas proved stubbornly resistant to the new synthesised drugs and so some scientists began to look back to traditional remedies for ideas for new compounds. Third, the enthusiasm and financial hype associated with the biotechnology industry began to make natural products respectable again, even in mainstream medical and pharmaceutical professions. Fourth, the rise of the 'green' and environmental movements made patients and consumers much more interested in natural products. For the first time in 40 years the climate is now therefore ripe for the introduction of new health care products derived from plants. Scotia Pharmaceuticals has been in the forefront of this development and this chapter outlines some of the opportunities and problems.
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