Beyond C, H, O, and N! analysis of the elemental composition of U.S. FDA approved drug architectures

Brandon R. Smith, Candice M. Eastman, Jon T. Njardarson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


The diversity of elements among U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pharmaceuticals is analyzed and reported, with a focus on atoms other than carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Our analysis reveals that sulfur, chlorine, fluorine, and phosphorous represent about 90% of elemental substitutions, with sulfur being the fifth most used element followed closely by chlorine, then fluorine and finally phosphorous in the eighth place. The remaining 10% of substitutions are represented by 16 other elements of which bromine, iodine, and iron occur most frequently. The most detailed parts of our analysis are focused on chlorinated drugs as a function of approval date, disease condition, chlorine attachment, and structure. To better aid our chlorine drug analyses, a new poster showcasing the structures of chlorinated pharmaceuticals was created specifically for this study. Phosphorus, bromine, and iodine containing drugs are analyzed closely as well, followed by a discussion about other elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9764-9773
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 11 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery


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