Drug Repurposing: A New Perspective on Old Medicines
What is Drug Repurposing?
The path of drug discovery from its inception in the research lab to its availability in the patient's hand can often be a long, intricate, and costly affair. However, there is a promising alternative approach called drug repurposing, which can significantly reduce the time, cost, and risk of drug development. This is possible since these repurposed drugs have already gone through stringent safety evaluations and their pharmacokinetic characteristics are well-documented. This is exciting because repurposing can offer hope for patients with unmet medical needs by providing new treatment options. In this blog, we will explore Drug repurposing, its significance, and some prominent examples of repurposed drugs available today.
Drug repurposing, also known as drug repositioning or reprofiling, is the process of identifying new uses for existing drugs. This approach addresses pressing medical needs and minimizes the time and cost associated with the development of new drugs. Since the drug has already gone through rigorous safety and efficacy assessments, drug repurposing accelerates a drug's transition from research to a clinical setting. Therefore, drug repurposing has the capacity to swiftly provide innovative treatment alternatives for patients.
Some prominent examples
Thalidomide was initially developed and marketed as an anti-nausea medication for pregnant women. Later it was withdrawn since it caused severe birth defects. In the 90s researchers identified thalidomide inhibits angiogenesis, the process of forming new blood vessels that is critical for tumor growth. This led to the repurposing of thalidomide to treat multiple myeloma. The case of Thalidomide is a compelling testament to the immense potential of drug repurposing.
Sildenafil, also known as Viagra, was first developed for the treatment of angina. During clinical trials, it was found to be more effective at treating erectile dysfunction, thereby leading to a breakthrough in a completely different therapeutic area.
Botox was initially approved for conditions like strabismus and cerebral palsy. Later clinicians observed its side effect of softening wrinkles around the eyes, this led to the approval of use of Botox in dermatology for cosmetic purposes.
Azidothymidine (AZT), was originally developed to treat cancer caused by retro viruses in the 1960s. AZT was repurposed decades later as the first approved treatment for HIV/AIDS.
Dexamethasone is a potent steroid used for a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. This drug was repurposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and was proven to be a life-saving treatment for critically ill patients. Early use of Dexamethasone significantly reduced mortality rates.
Drug repurposing, as demonstrated by thalidomide, sildenafil, Botox, AZT, and dexamethasone provides an innovative approach to address diverse health conditions more swiftly and economically. It offers hope to patients suffering from conditions with limited treatment options and accelerates access to therapies during public health crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the repurposing journey of each drug enhances our understanding of disease mechanisms, revealing connections between unrelated conditions.
As we progress, it is crucial to develop more systematic and strategic approaches for drug repurposing. Leveraging bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence can enable efficient screening of existing drugs for potential new uses, paving the way for more breakthroughs. To sum up, drug repurposing revitalizes old medicines, offering them a chance to provide new hope to patients worldwide.