Treatment of human and animal diseases has drastically evolved worldwide. Drugs administered in therapy are either via small molecules or biologics. What are these two molecules, how do they differ, and how do they work in therapy? This article is a deep insight into small molecules and biologics.
Small molecules in drug therapy are commonly referred to as conventional drugs. These are the most widely used therapeutics in the world. Small molecules are made synthetically in a laboratory. They have been around for centuries, and they were initially discovered by Europeans who were not aware of their effectiveness until later on.
A small molecule product is administered orally (through food or water), topically (on the skin), through inhalation (breathing), or intravenously (into a vein). The most commonly used small molecule drug is aspirin, treating pain and fever. However, small molecules like aspirin have been linked to side effects such as ulcers and internal bleeding when taken over a long period.
On the other hand, biologics are not made synthetically, but they are produced using living cells. They are usually extracted from animal or human cell culture and then purified. Biologics are also called large molecules, protein therapeutics, or monoclonal antibodies. These molecules have been used to treat cancer, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.
Biologics are administered through injection since it is not easy for them to be absorbed by the body if taken orally or topically. The most commonly used biologic drug is insulin which is used to treat diabetes mellitus type 1 and 2.
How Do They Work?
Small molecule drugs bind to specific proteins in the body to initiate their action. Most of them act on enzymes that catalyze reactions between other chemicals within the body. In some cases, they affect cell structure and function by altering the permeability of the cell membrane.
Small molecules can easily penetrate through cell membranes, making them effective against infections caused by bacteria or viruses since many are located in the cell membranes. However, biologics can only be delivered into a target area through injection since they cannot pass through a cell membrane.
Biologics affect cell function by binding to specific proteins within the body and initiating their activity. Some can initiate their action by affecting cell structure and function. Biologics are more expensive than small molecules. This is because they are produced by living organisms which means that they take a longer time to make and cost more money to manufacture.
Small molecules are often used to treat many different conditions. They are commonly used to treat skin diseases, respiratory diseases, and gastrointestinal problems. The most common small molecule drugs are antacids, antibiotics, cardiac drugs, painkillers, and antidiabetic medication.
Currently, there are more than 100 million patients who receive biologics as their primary treatment for various chronic diseases, including cancer and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. However, many people still have misconceptions about biologics. With more people embracing biologics, there is a need to understand better the benefits of using biologics. According to the experts at Avantor, “No matter how the drug or treatment is delivered, excipients from Avantor help make small molecule products more effective in addressing the needs of patients.”