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Significant strides have been made over the past century in elevating our quality of life.  One of the major indicators that the United Nations uses in assess quality of life is life expectancy.  Aside from the invention and development of the toilet and an effective sewage system, medicines and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry has been paramount in preventing and treating a number of important diseases, and in the process, extending our lifespan in developed nations.   

"Medicine" is a broad term applied to the health sciences concerning the restoration and maintenance of health and wellness.  Medicine generally refers to practical science of preventing and curing diseases - all matters dealt by medical doctors.  The various specialized branches of the science of medicine correspond to equally specialized medical professions dealing with particular organs or diseases.  The science of medicine is the body of knowledge about body systems and diseases, while the profession of medicine refers to the social structure of the group of people formally trained to apply that knowledge to treat disease.    

For the layman, the term "medicine" is equated with "medication" or "drugs".  The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a drug or medication (pharmaceutical preparation) as any substance or mixture of substances manufactured, sold, offered for sale, or represented for use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation, or prevention of disease, abnormal physical state or the symptoms thereof in man or animal.  They function in restoring, correcting, or modifying organic functions in man or animal.

Medications have been around since the dawn of civilizations.  The earliest records of medicinal plants and minerals are those of the ancient Chinese, Hindu, and Mediterranean civilizations.  Many of the active compounds in their remedies have been isolated and are still used today in treating modern ailments.  The most obvious example being an herbal medicine called Ch'ang Shang used for its potent antifever capabilities described by Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, in 2735 BC.  It has been shown since that Ch'ang Shang contains quinine, an antimalarial alkaloid.

Until the end of the 19th century, the discovery of new drugs was largely a matter of chance.  It was not until the early 20th century that drug discovery and development became a distinct and important science.  The bulk of the credit goes towards a brilliant and visionary scientist from Germany named Paul Ehrlich.  Ehrlich began to lay down the foundations and principles for modern pharmaceutical research.  Such methodical principles involved extensive testing for safety and efficacy of a compound that may potentially become a new medical drug. 

The modern pharmaceutical industry began in the 19th century with the discovery of highly active medicinal compounds that could most efficiently be manufactured on a large scale.  Research and development of new medicines by the pharmaceutical industry have been one of the greatest triumphs in human history.  With the creation of new effective drugs, the occurrence and severity of diseases such as rheumatic fever, typhoid fever, pneumonia, syphilis, tuberculosis, and depression were greatly reduced. 

Medicines have become an integral part of human health.  We are constantly being vaccinated during our childhoods.  Cough medicine are part of our arsenal to battle against the common cold.  Antibiotics are medicines that we take to fight sickness, despite the fact that many users don't even know what they're fighting against (answer: bacteria).  You've got a headache, and the first thing you reach for is aspirin.  As we get older, and our body begins to degenerate, medicine becomes part of our daily diet to maintain our body to function at its most optimal.  The use of medicines has become woven into our very lifestyle!