A New Purpose
Drug repurposing is in vogue, but it’s not always as easy as you think.
Gerallt Williams | | Opinion
It is often said there is no such thing as an original idea – inspiration is always derived from something or someone else. And this is by no means a bad thing. As one example, consider drug repurposing for nasal delivery. This strategy became popular around the mid-nineties with companies wanting to leverage existing drug products through new routes of administration to give them a new lease of life. Nasal delivery was a popular option as its convenience was seen to improve patient compliance and allowed anyone – even a casual bystander – to administer drugs effectively in the event of an emergency. But existing drugs can be repurposed in many other ways as well.
Drug repurposing has recently seen a resurgence in the industry – mainly because of economic drivers. The development and commercialization of new drug therapies requires up to 15 years of development work, and can represent around a $2.6 billion investment. Repurposing is cheaper and less complicated, although, as I will discuss later, it remains a complex exercise – and in my view, that complexity is often underestimated. But it is certainly an effective option to avoid extensive development work, and 54 percent of biologics launched or approved in the US in 2017 were for existing drugs repurposed for new disease indications, reformulations or combinations (1). For industry-newcomers and disruptors alike, there is space within the sector for them to make their mark. And with the recent approval of Spravato, an FDA-approved antidepressant adjunct, and Nazolam, a short-acting sedative drug, both repurposed for nasal drug delivery, the playing field is seemingly wide-open.
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