In the past few weeks, the news has been buzzing with stories about old drugs that surprisingly have a second life. For instance, there were stories that told about Alzheimer’s disease that might be cured by a skin cancer drug, the Ebola virus being inhibited by a drug used to treat Leukaemia and Malaria parasites being killed by Osteoporosis drug.
These stories throw an insight on the how the modern drug discovery mechanism works. Sometimes as an innocent serendipity, that pops up as a side effect during trials, surprising yet extremely valuable when it comes to curing ailments and others times by knowingly testing a drug in order to check whether it can have an impact on any other illness or not. The latter ones involve less expenses and troubles as they are already clinically approved of safety to the humans.
However, if we consider these examples in totality then we will find that the discovery of a drug is more towards the random that it is towards a premeditated outcome. Below is a list of such drugs that raised eyebrows in surprise:
Viagra: This one is probably the most popular drug on the planet owing to the effect it has on the human body. However, what is an affect now was once a side effect and Pfizer (the company that invented it) was almost ditching it in the form of chest pain curing drug when it grew curious on one particular side effect of it. It caused prolonged erections in males. The rest of it is history itself.
Lithium: This is not a drug but a metal used in drugs for curing manic disorders in bipolar patients. It is also a major constituent of the truth serum. Mr John Cade in 1949 was trying to isolate and find the compound that caused mental illness and happened to use Lithium as a control agent for the test. Well he did not find the compound but he sure did find the cure for the mental illness, a mere serendipity.
Minocycline: This drug was originally used for treating acne in humans but now there has been news of this drug being a possible cure for schizophrenia. The news triggered off after the psychotic symptoms of a Japanese man disappeared after being treated with the antibiotic for pneumonia. Clinical trials to verify this have been planned in UK.
These serendipities might be beneficial but we cannot rely upon them to find cure for the hundreds of diseases all around us. Today, the process of drug discovery initiates with the library of thousands of known drugs that are squirted onto the sample cells, for example cancer cells, one by one by a mechanism that keeps on repeating it until one compound kills those cells. That particular compound is isolated for further testing.
With the rapid advancement in the computer technology, drug screening might be done virtually in future. A 3-D computer model can be made of a particular disease-causing enzyme and researchers can search for the molecules that can penetrate and disable it.