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In the United States, new pharmaceutical products must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as being both safe and effective.

The pharmaceutical industry discovers, develops, produces, and markets drugs or pharmaceutical drugs for use as medications to be administered to patients, with the aim to cure them, vaccinate them, or alleviate the symptoms.Pharmaceutical companies may deal in generic or brand medications and medical devices.

The modern pharmaceutical industry began with local apothecaries that expanded from their traditional role distributing botanical drugs such as morphine and quinine to wholesale manufacture in the mid-1800s, and from discoveries resulting from applied research. Intentional drug discovery from plants began with the isolation between 1803 and 1805 of morphine from opium by the German apothecary assistant Friedrich Sertürner, who named the compound after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus.

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” - William Osler

A series of experiments performed from the late 1800s to the early 1900s revealed that diabetes is caused by the absence of a substance normally produced by the pancreas. In 1869, Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering found that diabetes could be induced in dogs by surgical removal of the pancreas. In 1921, Canadian professor Frederick Banting and his student Charles Best repeated this study, and found that injections of pancreatic extract reversed the symptoms produced by pancreas removal.