Sunday, September 14, 2014

Rumours of death of wartime penicillins : "Greatly Exaggerated"

Seventy five years on , the wartime penicillins are just dusty relics , found only in some museum of medical curios, right ?

(You been talking to your GP again ?)

It is simply amazing how many family doctors dismiss wartime penicillins and say 'we physicians are all into the latest beta lactams today' .

Time for some FACTS, Doc :

Viagra and Lipitor are some of the best known and best selling drugs of all time.

So how much of them are produced annually ?

Two Hundred and fifty metric tons each - very impressive numbers in the world of drug production.

So how much of the old wartime penicillins ( Penicillins G , V and N) are still produced annually ?

How about fifty thousand tonnes (!!!!)

So much so, and at such cheap prices ,that some statistic indices rate them as commodity chemicals like caustic soda and ethyl alcohol - the cheap bulk raw materials intended for further chemical or biological processing.

Because that is exactly what the wartime penicillin are produced in such huge amounts for - to be worked up into the varied anti-bacterial drugs we call the modern beta lactams.

The old geezers are still the foundation beneath the largest component of the anti-bacterial armoury (and one of the largest components of overall acute care medications).

Seventy five years on , the best of chemistry and microbiology has still not bettered how cheaply and efficiently the tiny penicillium chrysogenum eat cheap farm wastes and turn them into valued lifesavers.

Alexander Fleming was dead wrong, Howard Florey was dead wrong, almost every WWII era doctor, scientist and science journalist was dead wrong.

The wartime chemists did not quickly and decisively eclipse these tiny un-super heroes of the era of antibiotics .

And they still haven't done so, even today...

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