Unlocking new horizons: The power of pharmacovigilance in drug repurposing

Unlocking new horizons: The power of pharmacovigilance in drug repurposing

In the fast-paced world of pharmaceuticals, the quest to discover new drugs often steals the spotlight. However, there’s a hidden gem within the industry, an uncharted territory teeming with potential – the art of drug repurposing. This practice involves finding new therapeutic uses for existing drugs. In this article, we will explore how pharmacovigilance, the systematic drug safety monitoring, plays a pivotal role in identifying these novel applications. We will also delve into real-world examples from around the globe, demonstrating how drug repurposing not only saves time and resources but also opens up new revenue streams and extends the lifecycles of drugs.

The treasure trove of pharmacovigilance data

Pharmacovigilance dedicates itself to assessing and monitoring drug safety. By collecting and analyzing data on adverse events, it acts as a guardian of patient well-being. Furthermore, beyond its primary role, pharmacovigilance data harbors a wealth of information waiting to be tapped for drug repurposing.

Example 1: Aspirin – a centenarian drug with new tricks

Aspirin, a household name for pain relief, fever reduction, and heart attack prevention, has witnessed a renaissance. What is his new role? Cancer prevention. Researchers, utilizing pharmacovigilance data, observed a reduced risk of certain cancers among long-term aspirin users. Aspirin, therefore, appears to deserve serious consideration as an adjuvant treatment for cancer, and patients with cancer have a right to be informed of the available evidence.

Example 2: Thalidomide – from tragedy to triumph

Thalidomide, notorious for causing severe congenital disabilities in the 1950s, was shelved for decades. However, it found redemption through drug repurposing. Pharmacovigilance data highlighted its potential for treating multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. This led to its re-emergence as a life-saving medication, and it’s now a cornerstone in multiple myeloma therapy.

Example 3: Metformin – the diabetes drug breaking boundaries

Metformin, primarily prescribed for type 2 diabetes, is breaking into new territory. Researchers have identified its potential for treating various conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and even extending lifespan. With the aid of pharmacovigilance data, these novel applications are becoming viable, expanding the revenue streams for this age-old drug.

Pharmacovigilance and drug repurposing: business implications

The repurposing of existing drugs presents a treasure trove of benefits for pharmaceutical companies. Here are some of the compelling business implications:

Cost efficiency

With its well-established safety profiles for existing drugs, drug repurposing is often a faster and less expensive approach compared to traditional drug development.

Extended product lifecycles

Bringing new applications to existing drugs can extend their market life, providing a continued revenue stream long after their initial launch.

Reduced risk

Since the safety data of repurposed drugs is well-documented, the regulatory path to approval can be smoother and less risky.

New revenue streams

Repurposing can create additional revenue streams without investing in new drug development projects.


Pharmacovigilance, traditionally seen as a safeguard for patients, is emerging as a catalyst for innovation and business growth within the pharmaceutical industry. By sifting through mountains of safety data, researchers are discovering new therapeutic avenues for existing drugs, extending their lifecycles and generating new revenue streams. The examples from around the world show that drug repurposing is not only a promising strategy but also a testament to the untapped potential within pharmacovigilance data. While pharmaceutical companies continue to explore this territory, the possibilities are boundless. This promises a brighter and more efficient future for drug development and patient care.

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