Drug repurposing in neurological diseases: an integrated approach to reduce trial and error

Alexander Clout, Oscar Della Pasqua, Michael G. Hanna, Mine Orlu, Robert D.S. Pitceathly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying effective disease-modifying therapies for neurological diseases remains an important challenge in drug discovery and development. Drug repurposing attempts to determine new indications for pre-existing compounds and represents a major opportunity to address this clinically unmet need. It is potentially more cost-effective and time-efficient than de novo drug development and has yielded notable successes in neurological disorders. However, across all medical disciplines, only 30% of repurposed drugs, and 10% of novel candidate molecules, gain market approval. One potentially significant contributor towards this limited success rate is an incomplete knowledge of the exposure–response relationships for the compounds of interest, and how these relate to the new indication, prior to commencing a new trial. We provide an overview of the current approach to early-stage drug repurposing and consider the issues contributing to inconclusive, or possibly falsely negative, Phase II and III trial outcomes in neurological diseases by highlighting examples that illustrate the limitations of empirical evidence generation without a strong scientific basis for the dose rationale. We conclude with a framework suggesting a translational, iterative approach, that integrates pharmacological, pharmaceutical and clinical expertise, towards preclinical and early clinical drug development. This ensures appropriate dosing regimen, route of administration and/or formulation are selected for the new indication before their evaluation in prospective clinical trials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1270-1275
JournalJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry
Issue number11
Early online date6 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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