The advertisements in popular magazines would convince most readers that the pharmaceutical industry is ruled by giant multinational companies focused exclusively on "lifestyle" drugs to fix problems that could be cured through more healthful living.
In fact, much pharmaceutical research is conducted by small companies that many magazine readers have never heard of. And many of the industry's research dollars are spent confronting serious afflictions such as cancer, heart disease, pain, and infection. For example, in the U.S. last year there were 399 drugs in development to treat cancer and 146 for heart disease and stroke, according to Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.
Two of the drugs are still in development, and if history is any guide, one or both of them will fail for one reason or another. Drug development is a high-risk business, but the stories of the scientists who discover and synthesize such compounds are always compelling.