Natural Products as Sources of New Drugs from 1981 to 2014

J Nat Prod. 2016 Mar 25;79(3):629-61. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b01055. Epub 2016 Feb 7.


This contribution is a completely updated and expanded version of the four prior analogous reviews that were published in this journal in 1997, 2003, 2007, and 2012. In the case of all approved therapeutic agents, the time frame has been extended to cover the 34 years from January 1, 1981, to December 31, 2014, for all diseases worldwide, and from 1950 (earliest so far identified) to December 2014 for all approved antitumor drugs worldwide. As mentioned in the 2012 review, we have continued to utilize our secondary subdivision of a "natural product mimic", or "NM", to join the original primary divisions and the designation "natural product botanical", or "NB", to cover those botanical "defined mixtures" now recognized as drug entities by the U.S. FDA (and similar organizations). From the data presented in this review, the utilization of natural products and/or their novel structures, in order to discover and develop the final drug entity, is still alive and well. For example, in the area of cancer, over the time frame from around the 1940s to the end of 2014, of the 175 small molecules approved, 131, or 75%, are other than "S" (synthetic), with 85, or 49%, actually being either natural products or directly derived therefrom. In other areas, the influence of natural product structures is quite marked, with, as expected from prior information, the anti-infective area being dependent on natural products and their structures. We wish to draw the attention of readers to the rapidly evolving recognition that a significant number of natural product drugs/leads are actually produced by microbes and/or microbial interactions with the "host from whence it was isolated", and therefore it is considered that this area of natural product research should be expanded significantly.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biological Products*
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biological Products