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Systems Thinking in Medicine and New Drug Discovery

Robert Smith

Medicinal chemistry is undergoing an important paradigm shift (or way of thinking) from reductionist to systems thinking. This is based on a similar paradigm shift in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. Network science is an integral part of this. It has led to the emergence of network medicine. It not only aims to develop safe and effective new prescription drugs for patients who become sick, but also to recommend diets, lifestyles and even some dietary supplements that can prevent diseases. Network medicine also emphasizes precise, personalized treatments, in which patients and their caregivers can actively participate. It recognizes the important human need for patients and caregivers to be involved in preventing and curing their diseases. This is done with the types of extensive teamwork, open collaborations and continuous feedback which are hallmarks of Total Quality Management (TQM). Every employee is important because they all make crucial contributions to the organization. It also means listening to the voices of the customers, so their demands can be met. Similarly, TQM and TQL in systems medicine means listening to the voices of the patients and their caregivers, so their health needs can be met. It also means that the needs of every part of the human body are recognized by other parts of the body that interact synergistically and communicate with each other constantly. In addition, there is a deep ecology in the human body in which even the lowliest viruses and Bacteria make crucial contributions to the health of their human hosts and serve as essential parts of the neuroendocrine immune system. So, the human body operates under the principles of total quality, in which every component interacts, communicates and undergoes nonlinear feedback and feed forward mechanisms. However, the human body is not a machine that is involved in manufacturing. Machines don’t make themselves. Humans and other living creatures make themselves in the process called autopoiesis (self-making). So, TQM in the human body means total quality making, not total quality manufacturing.

The main goals of this two-volume set are to inform people with different backgrounds about the new ways that we are looking at human life and medicine, help healthcare professionals do their jobs better, provide background information and references for patients and their caregivers, as well as clarify some serious misconceptions that have emerged. For example, some people believe that the FDA and other governments’ regulatory agencies are in a conspiracy with pharmaceutical companies and physicians to keep people sick, so they can maximize profits and continue to sell patients prescription drugs that don’t cure any diseases. This thinking can lead some people to avoid seeing physicians, who prescribe ‘chemicals’. Some people believe that all dietary supplements are always safe and effective – especially if they are labeled ‘natural’. Many misconceptions like these can be exposed by using systems thinking.