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There are currently over 7,000 diseases worldwide that do not have effective treatments. This affects as many as 500 million people and includes conditions such as cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers, and many rare diseases.

Our current capacity to meet the demand is limited. Each year only 10-15 new treatments are developed. Too few and often too expensive for them to be widely available. That is leading many stakeholders to investigate the potential of drug repurposing. This largely untapped process has the potential to generate more treatments, more quickly, and ones that are more affordable.

A blond medical or scientific researcher or doctor using looking at a clear solution in a laboratory with her Asian female colleague out of focus behind her.

Drug repurposing involves exploring whether a drug designed for one disease can be used effectively for another disease. It’s not a new concept, but it’s time to give it a boost!

Pharmaceutical companies have financially benefited from, and create patient benefit from, drug repurposing for many years. For example, the drug sildenafil (Viagra) was in development as a remedy for angina.  It didn’t work in that indication, but along the way it was discovered to be an effective drug to treat erectile dysfunction.  It has since been further repurposed to treat arterial pulmonary hypertension, and is now being considered as a cancer drug.

Repurposing drugs has largely been a serendipitous process – treatments coming more by chance than intent. That is changing.

Advancements in technology mean that interactions between known drugs and unsolved diseases can be rapidly modelled, tested and shared around the world.

This presents a huge opportunity to help patients. New repurposed treatments can be developed more quickly and be more accessible and affordable than ever before.

But scaling up this drug repurposing will require new collaborations to connect patients, researchers, governments, philanthropists and industry. Collaborations that can help support the efforts of those engaged in drug repurposing.

Repurposing 101 is a site designed to introduce drug repurposing to wider audiences and demonstrate the critical role it can play in finding affordable, accessible and effective treatments.

It’s also a call to action – to encourage individuals and organizations to support the development of this emerging field to help drive more treatments more quickly to more patients.

With the growth of both for-profit and philanthropic repurposing research, and the massive patient need, there is a great opportunity for philanthropy, industry and government to work together to create incentives to push for more drug repurposing to provide more patients with safe, effective ‘new’ treatments that are more affordable.

To learn more about how you can get involved with repurposing research, visit Cures Within Reach. Cures Within Reach improves patient quality and length of life by leveraging the speed, safety and cost-effectiveness of medical repurposing research, driving more treatments to more patients more quickly. Our focus: funding the projects that, when successful, will catalyze follow-on funding and/or further trials and publications.  We focus on impacting patients with unmet medical needs, whether a repurposed treatment may have philanthropic value or commercial value.