In pharmacology, one of the most important concepts that determine how and where a medicine can be used is what’s known as the therapeutic window. This denotes the range between which a drug has no noticeable clinical effect and, at the upper bound of dosage, where the drug becomes potentially lethal and an overdose risk. The challenge of all drugmakers is to create a drug with the widest possible therapeutic window, so that dosages can be modulated according to the severity of the underlying condition, in a way which is safe enough to ensure the patient will not be at risk of serious adverse outcomes.
In fact, a wide therapeutic window is one of the main characteristics of most drugs that can be bought over the counter. This is due to the fact that these drugs have been deemed safe, by virtue of the fact that it is extremely difficult to overdose accidentally with their use. On the other hand, many other drugs have a much narrower therapeutic window. These tend to be the drugs that are available only through a prescription and bought at a pharmacy.
However, there is a class of even more dangerous drugs. These drugs have an extremely narrow therapeutic window. This means that they must be administered extremely carefully, because the amount which begins to cause clinically detectable effects is only ever so slightly less than the amount that causes a dangerous overdose. These drugs cannot even be bought with a prescription. They must be administered by either an anesthesiologist or other medical specialist.
One example of such a drug is the broad class of chemotherapies. The therapeutic window of chemotherapeutic agents tends to be extremely narrow. This means that they must be carefully administered by trained professionals, so as to avoid the accidental overdose or death of the patient.
Clay Siegall, the founder of Seattle Genetics, has set about to change this ongoing problem with chemotherapy. By creating a new class of drugs, called antibody drug conjugates, Dr. Siegall has been able to radically increase the size of the therapeutic window for chemotherapeutic agents, leading to far more effective treatments for cancer.