While at the Brownstone Institute retreat near Hartford, CT this weekend, I heard Dr. Paul Marik speak on repurposed drugs. Of course, this has been one of my passions since the Ebola outbreak of 2014, with the realization that a safe and effective vaccine could not be developed fast enough for any newly emergent highly infectious disease or infectious bio-threat event. Unfortunately, there is no interest in using repurposed drugs by our government or pharma for other disease indications such as cancer. This is despite the fact that computerized modeling, which is very sophisticated, suggests that there are many drugs for which the already licensed drug’s safety profile is well known, that would work well for varying types of cancers. Again, no profit motive, no interest. No research dollars or support. A dead end.
Likewise, in the US, “nutraceuticals” are largely unregulated, as they exist in the same category as dietary supplements and food additives by the FDA. There is no way for a pharma company to make huge amounts of profits from repurposed drugs unless they can figure out a way to patent the product (formulations, co-administration with other agents, etc.). Even then, it can be very difficult and carries a lot of financial risk – in getting it through the patenting process (which is more difficult).
I spent a year discovering repurposed drugs for Zika in 2015-2016. This included using high-throughput screening to discover already licensed drugs and related compounds with strong antiviral properties (alone or in combination). Finally, we tested one product in a live animal model. This culminated in a lot of great in-vitro and in-vivo data . The results showed that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were both excellent antivirals against Zika. Unfortunately, agencies within the US Government and private corporations have no interest in drug compounds that do not have a huge potential to make money. I could not get funding for any of this research (the DoD did supply a few resources, although not much, and NIH was down-right passive aggressive to the idea of testing repurposed drugs). But silly me, I didn’t connect the dots that they had no interest in researching anything that was not driven by big pharma. Personally, I just could not imagine that the US government was that corrupt. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t have an active interest in pursuing repurposed drugs. Jill and I funded the research out of pocket, and it just about bankrupted us. My conclusion at the time was that I will never do this again. I write all this, because there is a pattern here. Then Zika passed into oblivion. The data got put on the shelf and time went by.
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