Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Using existing drugs to fight malaria

Here is a gem highlighted in The Sceptical Chymist about a new approach to find anti-malarial compounds:
The authors created a library of 2,687 existing drugs and screened them for inhibitors of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

The main idea is that if the authors could find a relatively potent inhibitor of multidrug-resistant parasites, the compounds could be put into human clinical trials very quickly (since many of the compounds are already FDA-approved for human use).
They did find an anti-histamine (brand name Hismanal) that was effective at inhibiting the malaria parasite. (In fact I'm pretty sure I took it 15 years ago to fight allergies before it was pulled from the market.) . An interview in Chemistry World suggests that it could still take a while to be used.
The general principle of trawling through approved drugs for additional benefits is a good idea, said Peter Winstanley, a malaria researcher at the University of Liverpool, UK. "‘It means that a lot of the preliminary work has been done, and that does make it cheaper," he said. But he cautions that even if drugs are already approved, they still have to go through fresh clinical trials for additional diseases before they are used, a process that could take five years or more.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in practice.


At 10:40 AM, Blogger Dave Bradley said...

I covered this drug rebranding concept in Nature RDD last year:

Why big pharma needs to learn the three 'R's., Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2005 Jun;4(6):446


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