The development of new therapies has a rich history, evolves quickly with societal trends, and will have an exciting future. The last century has seen an exponential increase in complex interactions between medical practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, governments and patients. We believe technology and societal expectations will open up the opportunity for more individuals to participate as information becomes more freely available and inequality less acceptable. Corporations must recognize that usual market forces do not function ideally in a setting where health is regarded as a human right, and as modern consumers, patients will increasingly take control of their own data, wellbeing, and even the means of production for developing their own treatments. Ethics and legislation will increasingly impact the processes that facilitate drug development, distribution and administration. This article collection is a cross-journal collaboration, between the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (JoPPP) and BMC Medicine that seeks to cover recent advances in drug development, medicines use, policy and access with high clinical and public health relevance in the future. The Medicine and the Future of Health article collection is a joint collection between BMC Medicine and Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice. Therefore, this Editorial by the guest editors has been published in both journals.