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Homochiral Drugs: A Demanding Tendency of the Pharmaceutical Industry

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The issue of drug chirality is now a major theme in the design and development of new drugs, underpinned by a new understanding of the role of molecular recognition in many pharmacologically relevant events. In general, three methods are utilized for the production of a chiral drug: the chiral pool, separation of racemates, and asymmetric synthesis. Although the use of chiral drugs predates modern medicine, only since the 1980’s has there been a significant increase in the development of chiral pharmaceutical drugs. An important commercial reason is that as patents on racemic drugs expire, pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to extend patent coverage through development of the chiral switch enantiomers with desired bioactivity.

Stimulated by the new policy statements issued by the regulatory agencies, the pharmaceutical industry has systematically begun to develop chiral drugs in enantiometrically enriched pure forms. This new trend has caused a tremendous change in the industrial small- and large-scale production to enantiomerically pure drugs, leading to the revisiting and updating of old technologies, and to the development of new methodologies of their large-scale preparation (as the use of stereoselective syntheses and biocatalyzed reactions).

The final decision whether a given chiral drug will be marketed in an enantiomerically pure form, or as a racemic mixture of both enantiomers, will be made weighing all the medical, financial and social proficiencies of one or other form. The kinetic, pharmacological and toxicological properties of individual enantiomers need to be characterized, independently of a final decision.

Keywords: Asymmetric synthesis; chiral pool; chiral switch; homochiral; racemates; separation of racemates

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Departamento de Quimica Farmaceutica y Organica, Facultad de Farmacia, c/ Campus de Cartuja s/n, 18071 Granada, Spain.

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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