Drugs are obtained from many sources. Many inorganic materials, such as metals, are chemotherapeutic; hormones, alkaloids, vaccines, and antibiotics come from living organisms; and other drugs are synthetic or semisynthetic. Synthetics are often more effective and less toxic than the naturally obtained substances and are easier to prepare in standardized units. The techniques of genetic engineering are being applied to the production of drugs, and genetically engineered livestock that incorporate human genes are being developed for the production of scarce human enzymes and other proteins (see pharming).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.