A morbid parade of pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn drugs from the market - not to mention many that were caught just in time before going on the shelves - when it was realized that side effects produced terrible results, reaching so far as causing death. In collaboration with AstraZeneca, research at Gothenburg University has found a way to make safer drugs.

The best scenario is that medicine dissolves into harmless chemicals that exit the body as waste. However, certain substances can remain in the body, and there is a risk that they can convert into residue that may cause toxic side effects, especially with other medicines, and even long into a patient's lifetime.

This month following completion of research at the university, Tove Johansson Mali'n has announced a method by which different chemical systems can be used to imitate the disintegration of medicine while within a patient's body. Using this procedure, she has identified and characterized numerous potentially toxic substances that exist or arise as the result of using an array of pharmaceuticals.

One example is amodiaquine, which was launched as a malaria medicine but withdrawn when it caused liver damage and impaired immune systems. It is now only used in acute stages of malaria, mainly in Africa, and only because there is widespread disease resistance to other medicine. Using her method, Mali'n has revealed unknown disintegration products that contributed to amodiaquine's side effects.

"I hope that this method simplifies the process of identifying potentially toxic residue substances in an early phase, and thereby facilitates development of safe pharmaceuticals," said Mali'n. In late April, she lectured before 7,000 participants at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry's international convention in Salt Lake City.

Source: Gothenburg University