Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 05-19-2017, 11:47 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 18,854
How many 'drugs' currently exist as of 2017

If you consider a drug to be 'a chemical designed to alter the functioning of the body' either for medical or recreational purposes, how many different drugs exist right now? This includes legal and illegal, OTC and Rx, supplements and pharmaceuticals, etc.

I read somewhere around 6000-8000.

However, I'm not sure how you'd count for sure. Ibuprofen comes in 200mg and 800mg tablets. It comes in a topical gel as well as a cream. But it should only count as one drug.

Ephedra and ephedrine shouldn't count as 2 drugs as it is the same active ingredient.

Nexium is the S-isomer of the racemic molecule prilosec. So in theory that should only count as one drug, not two.

etc. So with factors like that, I don't know if there is a number, but I assume there is a ballpark.
Old 05-19-2017, 11:57 PM
boffking boffking is offline
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: New England
Posts: 2,421
Do combination medicines count as their own drugs? If not, that would bring up the total quite a bit.
For example, ibuprofen + diphenhydramine is sold as Advil PM. Do you count it as its own drug, or not?
Old 05-20-2017, 12:02 AM
nearwildheaven nearwildheaven is offline
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 9,447
Are you going to include investigational drugs, discontinued or withdrawn drugs, drugs that are used in other countries, etc.?
Old 05-20-2017, 01:41 AM
steatopygia steatopygia is offline
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: North Idaho mostly
Posts: 1,262
Not especially helpful but Wikipeda says the 2011 PDR

" has information on over 1,116 of the most commonly prescribed drugs"
Old 05-20-2017, 02:34 PM
si_blakely si_blakely is offline
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 4,907
There are labs in China constantly turning out new synthetic drugs for recreational purposes. These are modifications of existing drugs (often cathinones and the like).
Because these drugs are not scheduled, they are not (technically) illegal to sell. Legal frameworks find it hard keep up with the rate of development, and trying to make an entire class of drugs illegal may impact some very specific therapeutic products.

So counting is difficult.
Old 05-20-2017, 03:13 PM
Derleth Derleth is online now
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Missoula, Montana, USA
Posts: 20,073
Originally Posted by steatopygia View Post
Not especially helpful but Wikipeda says the 2011 PDR

" has information on over 1,116 of the most commonly prescribed drugs"
And the PDR is just a tiny fraction, because it focuses exclusively on the kinds of drugs a physician might reasonably expect to be called on to prescribe, so it leaves out drugs considered archaic, obsolete, medically worthless, medically unproven, or obscure. I can name two books off the top of my head loaded with references to drugs no PDR would mention: PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story and TIHKAL: The Continuation, both by Alexander and Ann Shulgin and both focusing on drugs Alexander Shulgin synthesized for the purposes of the books, a number of which he discovered in the process of exploring the broad chemical families the books focus on, phenethylamines and tryptamines, respectively.

So you have to consider whether research compounds are "drugs" in your mind. If they are, and if being used as a drug isn't an essential part of being a drug, then there's no limit: Any chemical could potentially be a drug, if only an exceedingly useless one, and the problem reduces to totting up all of the chemical compounds which exist, whether natural or synthesized.
Old 05-20-2017, 03:35 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Here
Posts: 11,723
Patent search?

FDA must have some list somewhere?
Old 05-20-2017, 03:56 PM
Evan Drake Evan Drake is offline
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 2,719
I was slightly impressed by this virtually unknown chap, Paul Adriaan Jan, Baron Janssen, 1926 - 2003 although I have no interest in any science --- he studied in Germany:

Janssen founded his own research laboratory in 1953, with a loan of 50,000 Belgian francs from his father. In 1953 he also discovered his first drug ambucetamide, an antispasmodic found to be particularly effective for the relief of menstrual pain.
In 1956, Janssen received his teaching certificate for higher education in pharmacology (Venia legendi) with a thesis on Compounds of the R 79 type. He then left the university and in 1956 established the company which would become Janssen Pharmaceutica. On 11 February 1958 he made haloperidol a major breakthrough in the treatment of schizophrenia. Paul Janssen and his team developed the fentanyl family of drugs, and many other anesthesia-related drugs, such as droperidol and etomidate which made a significant contribution to anesthesiology. One of the drugs he developed for the treatment of diarrhea, Diphenoxylate (Lomotil), even made it into space and was used during the Apollo program. In 1985, his company was the first Western pharmaceutical company to set up a pharmaceutical factory in the People's Republic of China (Xi'an). In 1995 he founded the Center for Molecular Design, together with Paul Lewi, where he and his team used a supercomputer to search for candidate molecules to find a treatment for AIDS.

Janssen and the scientists at Janssen Pharmaceutica discovered more than 80 new medicines. Four of his medicines are on the WHO list of essential medicines; this is an absolute world record. The majority of the drugs he and his teams developed were for human medicine and are being used to treat infestations by fungi and worms, mental illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, and gastrointestinal disorders.

This seems insanely industrious.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:03 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017