Back on the Shelf - Reinventing Drugs for New Uses
Diarmuid Jeffreys, a speaker at the marcus evans Evolution Summit 2010, discusses the lessons that the drug development industry can learn from aspirin’s history.
Montreux, Switzerland, September 7, 2010
The pharmaceutical industry can rebrand drugs and regenerate a second round of economic growth out of its products, says Diarmuid Jeffreys, author of, ‘Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug’.
The aspirin story is a classic example of why Chief Medical Officers need to keep on building upon the science they have, as no one knows what other uses might come out of existing drugs. A speaker at the marcus evans Evolution Summit 2010, taking place in Switzerland, 27 - 29 October, Jeffreys shares his knowledge on the making of aspirin the wonder drug, and how drugs can be reinvented for the post patent expiry marketplace.
What message does your book, ‘Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug’, have for the pharmaceutical industry?
Diarmuid Jeffreys: Aspirin was industrially formulated as a medicine in the 1890s for rheumatic fever, but it was quickly found to have pain relieving properties. Over the course of the 20th century, it became a popular painkiller and began to languish due to stronger more effective competition. Later, other uses of aspirin were discovered, such as for treating heart disease, stroke, and cancers.
Aspirin is essentially a drug which has been reinvented many times for different uses, and is therefore a wonder drug for every man. The message it gives the pharmaceutical industry and drug development is that quite often the reasons why a drug has been invented may not be its primary use. The industry should always keep on building upon the science they have, as no one knows what else might come up.
The drug industry is essentially about making profits because research and development (R&D) costs are very high. Companies need to find new products to generate profits, cover R&D costs and keep shareholders happy. The problem is that drug patents often expire after 10 to 15 years and competitors start producing generic versions of those drugs.
However, this is where companies are missing the trick. If they have a medicine which has been overtaken by generic copies, they can rebrand that drug without any additional R&D costs and regenerate a second round of economic growth out of the product. Another advantage is that the drug has already been tested, gone through clinical trials, and known by the public.
There are secrets contained within medicines, such as aspirin, which are unexpected. Research has shown it to be effective in preventing and treating breast cancer and strokes, none of which were envisaged when the drug was first invented. It is the classic example of how a drug can have unexpected effects.
What is the best way of making the most of existing drugs?
Diarmuid Jeffreys: Pharmaceutical companies need to keep on investing in research that may not have an immediate goal in mind, as they do not know what will turn up. Aspirin began to languish because the drug industry was not spending enough time trying to understand the mechanism of aspirin’s pharmacology, but researchers working for public bodies took the time and effort to uncover these uses.
Sometimes you have to keep on investing in R&D even where there is no objective in mind, because the most extraordinary discoveries and developments come out of that. Along with R&D come opportunities and unexpected developments that may lead you down paths that you never knew existed.
What long-term strategies for competing in the post patent expiry world would you recommend?
Diarmuid Jeffreys: Even if people do not want to take on research themselves, they can give grants to academic institutions and hospitals; these are relatively low cost because all of the establishment costs of setting up the scientific bodies have already been born by public finances but they just lack sufficient funds to pursue research.
Drug companies need to be wiser and slower when dealing with developments. They need to invest in 360 degrees research and look at the range of possible applications for a drug before rushing it to market for one specific condition. Aspirin’s development has shown that with careful research over time new uses for everyday medicines can be uncovered.
About the Evolution Summit 2010
This unique forum will take place at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux, Switzerland, 27 - 29 October 2010. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The summit includes presentations on heeding health economics, evolving outsourcing models, clinical data management and emerging regulations.
For more information please send an email to email@example.com or visit the event website at http://www.evolution-summit.com/media_tn_dj
Please note that the summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.