CHEM 111(F) Fighting Disease: The Evolution and Operation of Human Medicines

The past decade has seen an explosion in the number of pharmaceuticals available to doctors and their patients. Pills are now available to treat conditions as varied as depression and baldness, and a cure for the common cold is in development. A visit to the doctor now seems incomplete without a prescription. Changes in Food and Drug Administration and health insurance policies combined with the tremendous increase in advertisement of prescription drugs have also placed a larger burden on consumers in deciding which drugs to take, as well as in paying for the medication. This course focuses on understanding, at a biochemical level, how several drugs work their curative magic as well as how they may lead to undesired side effects. We examine the processes through which drugs are discovered or created and how they are then brought to consumers. Topics range from the discovery of aspirin and the effect of World War II on the discovery of cheap treatments for malaria to advances in protease inhibitors and combination therapies which have dramatically extended the lives of AIDS patients. The main focus of the course is basic concepts in medicinal chemistry and biology which underlie the action of any drug. We also explore the connections between basic research, biotechnology companies, multinational pharmaceutical firms, patent attorneys, regulatory agencies, doctors, and insurers which eventually lead to the availability of a given drug. This course is designed for the non-science major who does not intend to pursue a career in the natural sciences. Principles in organic chemistry and biochemistry will be developed as needed. Format: lecture, three hours per week. Evaluation will be based on problem sets, class participation, a quiz, a midterm, and a final project. No prerequisites; students who have taken Chemistry 156 are not eligible. No enrollment limit (expected: 40).

Hour: T.. SMITH