Researchers identify medications that could be repurposed, including treatments for heart conditions and stomach ulcers
Scientists have pinpointed a range of commonly used medicines that could be repurposed to treat people suffering from obesity and diabetes.
The medicines – to be outlined at the International Congress on Obesity in Melbourne this weekend – include treatments for stomach ulcers and heart rhythm disorders and were identified using sophisticated computer programs.
“New treatments with high activity and specificity are urgently needed to tackle a pandemic of chronic illness associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity,” said Professor Murray Cairns of the University of Newcastle, in New South Wales, Australia.
“Our technology harnesses genetically informed precision medicine to identify and target new treatments for these complex disorders.”
Drugs chosen as potential obesity treatments include baclofen, a muscle relaxant, and carfilzomib, a medicine used in chemotherapy. In the case of potential diabetes treatments, the researcher identified palbociclib, which is used to treat breast cancer, and cardiac glycosides, which are used to treat heart failure and heart rhythm disorders.
In addition, they identified drugs that had the potential to treat both obesity and diabetes. These included sucralfate, which is used to treat stomach ulcers, and the cancer drug regorafenib.
Repurposing existing drugs in order to tackle new conditions is becoming an increasingly attractive option for treating illnesses such as diabetes. The safety of these medicines will have already been studied during their original pharmaceutical trials and so should need less time and cost to bring to market.
In addition, older drugs may no longer be subject to patent restrictions and should be cheaper for doctors and hospitals to administer.
Cairns and his colleague William Reay studied data about the genetic pathways involved in the development of diabetes and obesity and then used software to compare this information about the pathways that existing drugs take through the human body. They were able to identify existing drugs that could be repurposed to tackle the two conditions.
“We wanted to make an impact against these and other complex conditions through the discovery of drugs that target each individual’s genetically encoded biological risk,” said Reay.
The possible development of new treatments for diabetes is encouraging because the number of cases has been rising steadily across the world in the past few decades and has been linked to increases in rates of obesity and lack of exercise by individuals
“Diabetes and obesity are the major risk factors for dozens of chronic health disorders that contribute to astonishing levels of human morbidity and mortality,” said Reay.
In the UK, two-thirds of adults are above a healthy weight and half of these are living with obesity, which is associated with reduced life expectancy and increased rates of cardiovascular disease, liver and respiratory disease and cancer.


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