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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Drugs

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Treatments for Medical Problems: Questions and Answers

What approved drugs are available to treat my disease?

The following resources provide information on drugs for specific diseases:

  • MedlinePlus Exit Disclaimer
    Provides information on hundreds of diseases and conditions and their therapies.
  • healthfinder.gov Exit Disclaimer
    The drug database provides information on hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Since FDA cannot provide information about drugs in development, where can I go to learn more about them?

Confidentiality rules prohibit FDA from releasing information on any drug under development, unless the information has been made public. You can learn about drugs in development by consulting sources of information on clinical trials. Clinical trials, also known as clinical studies, test potential treatments in human volunteers to see if they should be approved for wider use in the general population. A treatment could be a drug, medical device or biologic. You can search for a clinical trial to treat a specific condition on the National Institutes of Health Web site, ClinicalTrials.gov Exit Disclaimer. This site provides descriptions of on-going clinical trials, including purpose, eligibility criteria, locations and phone numbers for more details.

One of the most common methods to gain access to an unapproved drug is to enroll in a clinical trial. There are guidelines, however, about who can participate (eligibility criteria) and who cannot participate (exclusion criteria) in each trial. These criteria can cover age, sex, disease type and stage, previous treatment history, and other medical conditions.

If a patient does not meet the eligibility requirements for a clinical trial, access to a drug may still be possible with FDA authorization. Special (or compassionate) exemptions allow patients to be treated in a clinical trial. Also, two Investigational New Drug programs (IND), the emergency IND and the Treatment IND, give patients access to unapproved drugs for serious or immediately life-threatening conditions, when no satisfactory alternative therapy is available.