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We need a global system to help identify new uses for existing drugs

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 27 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1806
  1. Ricardo Borges, professor of pharmacology and head of the pharmacology unit, University of La Laguna Medical School, The Unit of Pharmacology, E-38071 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
  1. rborges{at}

A centralised, worldwide system, similar to the existing “yellow cards” collected for adverse drug events, could amass the huge numbers of data needed, writes Ricardo Borges

“Identification of potential therapeutic targets for new drugs” is a phrase commonly used in grant proposals in both basic and clinical research. Every year drug companies produce and patent hundreds of new drugs that have been assessed in preclinical tests. However, despite this enormous effort and cost, the number of new drugs in the formularies and available to clinicians is ever declining, and the general feeling is that this will persist.1

Many drugs are already used for therapeutic purposes that are different from those that were initially intended. Examples include the use of antidepressants as analgesics, …

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