A Guide to Understanding How Drugs are Developed

lab technician getting samples

The pandemic surprised people last January 2020 when an outbreak in Wuhan, China, started spreading. The high contagion rate of the airborne virus started to affect the world, making everyone and everything adjust to its mercy. Economies collapsed, businesses shut down, and hospitals began accommodating more people than their capabilities. Millions of people succumbed to the pandemic. A year later, vaccines started to roll out to defend people against COVID-19.

The timeline between the virus outbreak and drug development is well within a year, as pharmaceutical and medical companies gathered all the necessary resources to combat the problem. However, you might wonder why it took so long for the world’s best and most established ventures to produce it. As you must know, it is one of the fastest development ever made. Before you question the creation period of the vaccine, you have to understand how drug development works.


Problems will always come up, and they will be endless regarding health. Diseases and viruses with no treatment or drugs might infect or affect millions of people, with COVID-19 as a prime example. It requires a solution, so you will find that nearly every pharmaceutical company focuses all operations and efforts on creating a vaccine.

However, you will find that drug development usually takes years before completion. The average time is around 12 years before passing safety precautions and testing to make it safe for human consumption.

You will find that necessity is a factor. If it requires attention, like the pandemic, you can focus on creating solutions for it. Necessity might not be part of the drug development process, but it will dictate your end goal.


When pharmaceutical companies face problems like diseases or other health complications, they will work on finding solutions. However, it does not mean that they already know what to do. They will start with discovering materials, formulations, ingredients, and other organisms to base on for their entire project. Scientists will scour through past discoveries, study different elements, and identify the items that will help develop the drug. They might have a purpose, but they might also make multiple discoveries for other essential areas, illnesses, or health complications.

Discovery will take up most of their time, but it might reach a point where efforts lead them to other solutions. However, you will find that discovery will always be a necessary part of the journey. The process will dictate the equipment and tools required by the team spearheading the project. Breakthroughs and advancements happen in this stage, making it a critical part of drug development.

Research and Development

Discovery will dictate how you pursue the process, but it takes a while before people can get the desired result. Research and development will take a significant amount of time, with scientists investing in tools, equipment, and procedures to ensure that drug creation can happen.

You will find this area is where pharmaceutical companies require help. Everything from the analytical instrument companies to material suppliers will be essential for the project. Even support in actual research and development teams will be necessary. Part of the journey involves identifying how the manufacturing process goes and how pharmaceutical companies can produce it in bulk. Determining the preparations necessary to ensure that the drug is safe from human consumption will also be essential. The strategies will be crucial for the next stage of the drug development process.

Clinical Trials

The accomplishment of research and development is a medical breakthrough, but it can be dangerous for human consumption. Before selling the drug, you must ensure it reaches 100% safety. Clinical trials will help you achieve that situation, making it safer for people needing it. Testing it in a controlled environment with the help of a few willing subjects can help you identify the necessary tweaks and adjustments.

Pharmaceutical companies can experience setbacks and delays because of the clinical trial findings, extending the drug development process to years. Long-term side effects might also pop up, making it necessary to take time for observations and tracking. The process will be essential for FDA approval, noting every detail of the drug development process under review. It might take time to sell it to the public before you get the go-ahead signal, but it will be the milestone that makes all your efforts worth it.

The drug development process is full of complications and tests that only pharmaceutical companies can handle, making it necessary for an average person to understand why it takes longer to formulate a drug that can save lives. These steps will be essential to the journey, so you must be patient.

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