Tag Archives: AZT

New very different therapeutic applications for existing drugs

Over the last couple of days I have read about an old drug Citalopram (Celaxa, Lundbeck)  initially developed for the treatment of depression, has now  been the subject of early research into the treatment of Alzheimers.  Researchers from University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, set out to explore the untapped powers of antidepressants, SSRIs to reduce production of beta-amyloid, a plaque that having grown on brain cells causes Alzheimers.(Ref: LA Times May 14th, 2014)citalopram

This very early research work into Citalopram has shown it effective in at least stopping the spread of the plaque (in mice) but not (as yet) rolling it back. What about other good examples of products/molecules developed in the past, that have found new subsequent uses? I’ve put together a table below identifying 10 compounds some of which have successfully been indicated and been awarded licenses for new applications. I have tried to pick out products that have found applications in other areas, very different from the original therapeutic application that they were developed to target. I did find quite a few molecules that have extended their application within the same sector that they orginally targeted, a common example of this is in the cancer sector.

Most of the molecules listed below in the table  through their brand names, are now household names for their initial application. Though the newer or subsequent application typically doesn’t replicate the sales  success of their original use, some like aspirin are now mainstreamaspirin in the alternative application such as in the case of aspirin, in  the treatment of hypertension.

If you know of other good example of older molecules/products that have been used in very different applications than those they were orginally developed for, I would welcome hearing from you and I will update this blog with the information.

Table showing a list of 10  molecules with their existing/original application along with newer applications.

Exisiting molecule Originator Company Original Application New or Secondary Application
Citalopram* Lundbeck Depression Alzheimers*
Sildenafil Pfizer Hypertension Erectile Dysfunction
Aspirin Bayer Pain Management Hypertension
Botox Allergan Stabismus/Blepharospasm Cosmetic use/Migraines
Perphenazine* Schering Plough Antipsychotic Leukemia*
Thalidomide Grunenthal Sedative/nausea Leprosy/myeloma
Sirolimus Pfizer Organ/transplant rejection Controlling a rare lung disease in children
Tamoxifen* AZ Cancer Bipolar depression*
Raloxifene Lilly Osteoporosis Breast Cancer
AZT/Zidovudine** GSK Cancer** HIV/Aids


* study of these molecules for these new applications is still at an early stage and have not been approved for marketing for these indications.

** Failed in clinical trials in the use as a treatment for certain cancers



LA Times:Preventing Alzheimer’s disease — with an antidepressant http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-alzheimers-antidepressant-20140513-story.html

TedBlog: 9 old drugs that learned new tricks: The head of the National Institutes of Health shares medicines that turned out to have multiple uses. http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/22/9-old-drugs-that-learned-new-tricks-the-head-of-the-national-institutes-of-health-shares-medicines-that-turned-out-to-have-multiple-uses/

Antipsychotic Drug Fights Leukemia in Model: Perphenazine http://www.dddmag.com/news/2014/01/antipsychotic-drug-fights-leukemia-model