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Creating a medicine

New medicines are needed to treat disease, to prevent people getting a disease, to improve people's health and wellbeing and to save lives.

Most new medicines are developed and manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry. Researching, developing and manufacturing medicines contributes to the health of the economy through exports and providing a wide range of interesting, well paid, jobs.

It takes about 12 years to discover, develop and test a new medicine. It is not a straightforward process and many projects fail for one reason or another - the medicine may not work as well as expected, or the side effects are too great - it is a high risk business. However when everything goes well the outcome for patients is a new medicine which might treat a disease, supress it's symptoms or prevent it taking hold.

Some projects fail because the basic science didn't work out, or the chemists weren't able to make a new molecule that had all the right properties. Other projects might fail because of unexpected side effects once large numbers of patients are being treated. It is important to identify potential problems as early as possible in the process because research and development is very expensive, particularly once clinical trials start. It currently costs about £1.15 billion to create a new medicine.