Medicine life cycle

A medicine is a product consisting of various substances, with an aim to cure a disease or alleviate its symptoms. Some medicines, such as vaccines, help to prevent diseases.

Medicines can be categorised as self-care medicines which can be bought at the pharmacy over the counter without a prescription and as prescription-only medicines always requiring doctor’s orders.  A disease or ailment treated with a prescription-only medicine also calls for a diagnosis made by a physician. The dosage of the medicine is always customised for the individual patient because the same medicine can have varying effects on different people.

Medicines can also classified as outpatient or hospital medicines according to the place where medication takes place. The outpatient medicines can be bought in the pharmacy by the person using them. In turn, the medication with hospital medicines takes place in the hospital where the patient is treated.

The medicines development is a long process. It starts at the laboratory where the pharmaceutical molecule is invented. This launches a long research process which normally takes about 10 to 12 years before the medicine is on the market.

As early as possible, a patent application for the molecule is filed to protect the invention. The patent of a novel medicines remains in force for the maximum of 20 years. Part of the protection period is taken up by the development stages preceding the medicine’s entry into the market.
Once the protection period expires, generic medicines with the same active ingredient start to be introduced.

Patients will have access to the medicine once it gets the marketing authorisation. In order for the marketing authorisation to be granted, the safety and efficacy of the medicine must have be thoroughly proven.

Novel medicines are constantly developed. From the patient perspective, it is vital that the novel therapies are introduced as rapidly as possible. Nevertheless, this normally requires that the medicine has given the so-called Kela reimbursement status as novel therapies are often pricy. However, medicines should  not be looked at as individual cost items but as an investment in health and wellbeing. Wellbeing is important, not only for the patient but for the society at large since the correct effective treatment makes it possible to make savings in other societal expenses.