Serendipity is one of many factors that may play a role in drug discovery. It contributed to the development of prototype psychotropic drugs, which led to modern pharmacological treatment in psychiatry. It has also played a role in the discovery of several drugs that have influenced the development of psychiatry. “Serendipity” in drug discovery refers to the discovery of one thing while looking for another.

Some of the famous serendipity in pharmacology and drug discovery are mentioned below.

  1. Penicillin by Alexander Fleming. He failed to disinfect cultures of bacteria when leaving for his vacations, only to find them contaminated with Penicillium molds, which killed the bacteria.
  2. 5-fluorouracil’s therapeutic action on actinic keratosis, was initially investigated for its anti-cancer actions.
  3. Minoxidil’s action on baldness; originally it was an oral agent for treating hypertension. It was observed that bald patients treated with it grew hair too.
  4. Viagra (sildenafil citrate), an anti-impotence drug. It was initially studied for use in hypertension and angina pectoris. Phase I clinical trials under the direction of an Osterloh suggested that the drug had little effect on angina, but that it could induce marked penile erections.
  5. The libido-enhancing effect of Levodopa. The first anti-psychotic drug, Chlorpromazine, was discovered by French pharmacologist Henri Laborit. He wanted to add an antihistaminic to prevent surgical shock and noticed that patients treated with it were unusually calm before the operation.
  6. The first antidepressants, imipramine, and iproniazid were 1st used in schizophrenics (imipramine) & in the t/t of TB (iproniazid).
  7. Mustine is a derivative of mustard gas (a chemical weapon). In 1943, physicians noted that the white cell counts of US soldiers accidentally exposed to mustard gas shells were decreased, and mustard gas was investigated as a therapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  8. The anesthetic nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Its properties were discovered when British chemist Humphry Davy tested the gas on himself and some of his friends and soon realized that nitrous oxide considerably dulled the sensation of pain, even if the inhaler was still semi-conscious.

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