where do the chemicals in prescription medications come from?

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My son takes Focalin XR for his ADHD. It works great, but today at the pharmacy I started thinking where do the chemical compounds in this come from? Like I’m sure my pharmacy buys from a compound pharmacy. But where does the compound pharmacy by the methyl and phenyl from?

And how are these extracted from their sources? Is it mined? Does it come from corn? Animals?

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Name brand Focalin is manufactured by Novartis. That’s who the pharmacy gets it from. The pharmacy isn’t going to be mixing drugs together to make other drugs, that would be too much risk for not doing it right, not to mention would break patents. All prescription drugs are made by drug companies and sold to pharmacies. As for how they are made, it varies by drug, but for the most part they are almost all synthesized through other drugs and substances to make the specific molecule structure they are aiming for.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The pharmaceutical company will make the drug and sell it to the pharmacy. Commonly this will involve different chemicals in large scale chemical reactions to make the drug itself plus other stuff to make it into a pill. Nature provides all the chemical building blocks needed – people over time learned to play with these to make new chemicals and so on.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Most chemicals used in medicine aren’t isolated as-is from natural sources, but are chemically manufactured by mixing compounds together and causing them to react if it doesn’t happen spontaneously (sometimes with heat, other times with catalysts).

In the case of ritalin (which is a similar molecule to the one used in focalin), they mix a specific amino acid (α-phenyl-α-(2-piperidinyl)acetic acid) with methanol.

Most chemicals start out in the ground, so they’re mined and then combined in various ways to make different chemicals.

Anonymous 0 Comments

This is called organic synthesis, and has been around for 200-300 years or so. Scientists have learned to take small, accessible molecules from their surroundings and mix them together with other molecules to make larger, more complex structures. Some compounds require 10 or even more separate steps to piece together from smaller pieces. Petrochemical processing is a rich source of starting materials, as are plants.

So as a synthetic organic chemist, you’re trained to take small pieces and put them together to make one large piece with the structure that you need (structure often determines function). Chemists are constantly coming up with new ways / methods to link pieces together. Other chemists predict the structure of what could be a possible drug, using a lot of computer modeling. Synthetic chemists then make it and test it.

It’s all a game of Legos