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USF professor weighs in on pharma development trend: drug repositioning

In a recent American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences blog, USF Health’s Shu-Feng Zhou, MD, PhD, discusses how the strategy of finding new uses for existing compounds – referred to as drug repositioning or repurposing – can get medications to market faster and spur business development.

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This approach to drug discovery is gaining momentum, in part, because developing a single new drug from scratch is estimated to cost as much as $800 million over a prolonged timeline of 10 to 17 years, says Dr. Zhou, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the USF College of Pharmacy.

All that time and expense may yield new drugs that demonstrate only minor changes in composition and aesthetics  – with little or no added benefit for patients, he adds.

So, pharmaceutical companies are looking to capitalize on their investments – by opening new markets for approved drugs, or revisiting shelved drug candidates as potential new medicines for both common and rare diseases.


                           Dr. Shu-Feng Zhou

One example of successful repositioning cited by Dr. Zhou is the infamous drug thalidomide (Thalomid), which resulted in thousands of babies with birth defects when it was used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women in the 1950s and early 60s. Following renewed research, the approved compound was returned to market in 2006 to treat the blood disorder multiple myeloma.

Read Dr. Zhou’s perspective on drug repositioning