John Mann reviews an introductory text

Chemistry and medicines: an introductory text
J. R. Hanson
Cambridge: RSC 2006 | Pp192 | £27.50 | ISBN 0 854 04645 3

Cover of chemistry and medicines

Jim Hanson's aim was to provide a brief introduction to medicinal chemistry for undergraduates, so the first question that has to be posed is what is medicinal chemistry? Someone working in the pharmaceutical industry would probably think in terms of designing a lead compound and then changing its structure to provide a molecule with the highest potency and most acceptable profile for absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicology (ADMET). However, as with most university courses in medicinal chemistry, this book is more concerned with a description of the main drug types and a discussion of their chemistry, including their synthesis.  

The author has produced a highly readable book which covers all of the main types of drugs. His initial history of drug discovery is excellent and the coverage of the general principles of ADMET, measuring structure-activity relationships (SARs), receptors, and cell signalling is contemporary if brief. Two chapters are devoted to neurotransmitters and the interaction of drugs with the central nervous system, while most of the real medicinal chemistry is dealt with in a further chapter on local and circulating hormones such as histamine, prostaglandins and steroids. The book concludes with two chapters on antimicrobial agents and cancer chemotherapy with the first being the more comprehensive of the two. The chemical structures are both accurate and well drawn with full stereochemistry, though the other figures are a bit basic for modern tastes and expectations.  

Overall, the book provides an excellent introduction to all classes of drugs but I'm not sure who will buy it. Priced at £27.50, for the same money students can buy Graham Patrick's much more comprehensive textbook on medicinal chemistry.