After being treated to a talk on this topic at the Cure Parkinson’s patient meeting, I was struck by the near-synchronicity of the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s note that they were running a “Repositioning Drugs for PD 2012 program”, which came to my attention today.
The CPT are looking at several drugs that are already approved for other uses, in the hope that they may help people with Parkinson’s. These include:
- Isradipine, a calcium channel blocker usually prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure; initial research indicates that this may be neuroprotective.
- Exendin, which I mentioned in the article I wrote for the Parkinson’s Movement; this is a diabetes type 2 drug based on a synthesised version of a hormone found in the saliva of the Gila Monster (illustrated). It may also have neuroprotective properties.
The MJFF are also looking at repositioning existing drugs. In fact, they even have a potential study on a diabetes type 2 drug in the pipeline; the drug is called gliptins, and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Gila Monsters. But it still sounds promising.
There are massive advatages to be gained by repositioning an existing treatment. It can take over a decade to get a new drug from research to the market, and it costs a huge amount of money to develop the drug and to ensure that it is as safe as possible. This article in Nature explains the process.
If a drug is already approved, most of the hard work has been done. If it is suspected that the drug has a second application, trials can be run and approval gained (assuming that the trials show that it works) in far less time. It also costs a fraction of the price.
A repositioned drug may not be the best fit to problem, but if it is a reasonable fit then further work can be done to refine the application using similar substances; but in the meantime, a useful drug is available to the people who need it. I see it as a sort of looking for “Mr. Right” – who, as every girl knows, is very elusive. So you settle for “Mr. Right Now” for a while…