In this post I’m reviewing some drugs that treat multiple conditions. This post was updated August 5, 2020.
Many drugs originally developed to prevent or treat one condition can be “repurposed” to treat another.
This information is current as of the publication date; it is general medical information that helps doctors and patients make decisions about what is right for them. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things. Discuss with your physician or appropriate healthcare provider .
Treatment options for COVID-19
In 2020 SARS-CoV-2 caused a worldwide pandemic of infection. To treat this novel, or new, virus, infectious disease experts turned to old drugs while developing new unique drugs to treat it.
Chloroquine, an old malaria drug and its cousin hydroxychloroquine, used for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus received EUA, Emergency Use Authorization, from the FDA for use against COVID-19. At first it looked promising; President Trump even took it for prevention. But analysis of treatment results did not show fewer deaths but did find adverse heart effects so the EUA was withdrawn. However clinical trials using the drug can be continued.
In early July a hospital in Michigan released statistics showing more patients treated with hydroxychloroquine lived that those who weren’t, surprising other medical centers who did not find the same results in their patients.
As of August 2, 2020, the White House coronavirus task force member charged with coordinating the U.S. testing effort said that the nation needs to “move on” from the debate over hydroxychloroquine.
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health and human services, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that “from a public health standpoint, at first, hydroxychloroquine looked very promising” but at “this point in time, there’s been five randomized control, placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine.”
“So, at this point in time, we don’t recommend that (hydroxychloroquine) as a treatment. There’s no evidence to show that it is,”Adm. Brett Giroir
Another old drug however did reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients. Dexamethasone, a steroid, reduced mortality in patients who needed oxygen, either alone or by a ventilator and is now recommended for use in all such patients. Steroids treat a variety of conditions including severe asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, autoimmune diseases, and multiple other inflammatory conditions.
Avoiding surgery for ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. As the fertilized egg begins developing into an embryo, it will eventually outgrow size of the Fallopian tube, and rupture, causing hemorrhage (bleeding) in the pregnant woman.
Ruptured ectopic pregnancies cause about 2.7% of pregnancy-related deaths. Ectopic pregnancy is a true medical emergency and usually requires surgery to prevent death. But another old medicine can in some cases spare a woman from losing her tube to either rupture or surgery.
Methotrexate is an old drug used to treat several forms of cancer as well as several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s Disease. Now, some patients can avoid surgery for an ectopic pregnancy by receiving one or two doses of methotrexate by the IM (intra-muscle) injection route.
The treatment is not 100% effective; patients must follow their doctor’s instructions for follow up carefully, as surgery may still be necessary.
Prevention of migraine pain and disability
Migraine, although not exclusive to women,occurs much more frequently in them than men. For infrequent headaches,non opiate pain relievers are effective and recommended. But for severe, frequent, or persistent symptoms prevention is recommended to improve quality of life.
Botox, onabotulinumtoxin A, has been FDA approved for treating chronic migraine, meaning patients with frequent headaches and other migraine symptoms for at least 3 months.
Yes the same drug used to treat wrinkles,Botox, can prevent migraine.
Manufactured by Allergan, a vial containing 200 units costs $1452, per goodrx.com. For migraine, the drug is injected in the upper facial muscles by a physician specifically trained in its use.
Preventing cancers with the HPV vaccine
Infection with the HPV, human papillomavirus, causes genital warts, an uncomfortable condition but not life threatening. However it can also cause changes in the cervix called CIN which can lead to cervical cancer.
According to a review of clinical trials by Cochran, vaccination against this virus effectively prevents infection and thus fewer cases of CIN. Since a significant percentage of CIN progresses to cancer, we can expect fewer women will develop invasive cervical cancer, the 4th most common cancer in women worldwide.
The vaccine, Gardasail 9, originally approved for use in females ages 9 to 26 years,received FDA approval for use up to ages 17 to 45 years in both males and females.
The vaccine is intended to prevent cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, and cervix.
The American Cancer Society, ACS, recommends routine vaccination from ages 9-12 years, to prevent the greatest number of cancers, since the vaccine is less effective at older ages. The ACS encourages physicians to offer “catch-up” vaccination to people through age 26 years. For persons older than 26 years, the vaccine offers much less cancer prevention so the society does not recommend it.
Stopping shingles-and strokes- with the zoster vaccine
Zoster is a reactivation of the varicella/zoster virus that causes chickenpox. It causes a painful rash known as shingles;the pain may continue after the rash is gone. It can happen at any age, but symptoms tend to be worst in older persons.
The new zoster (shingles) vaccine, Shingrix, prevents the painful rash much more effectively than the original vaccine Zostavax. It ranges in effectiveness from 91% to 97% at preventing shingles, depending on age. The first vaccine was 51% effective.
However, the original shingles vaccine may not prevent shingles as well, but it may prevent strokes due to inhibiting inflammation causes by the shingles virus.
Researchers at the CDC reviewed the Medicare health records of more than 1 million people age 66 or older who received Zostavax between 2008 and 2014, and 1 million people of the same age who had not received the vaccination. Researchers took into account age, gender, race, medications and existing health conditions.
Based on these records, the Zostavax reduced stroke risk by 18% for the most common type of stroke. During the years they reviewed, the Shingrix was not in use, so they couldn’t say if it would also show a protective effect.
before you leave, here’s another post you might enjoy
exploring the HEART of health
Thanks for joining me to review some old drugs with new tricks.
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