WHO endorses drug repurposing strategy of the Anticancer Fund
BRUSSELS – The World Health Organisation (WHO) supports the efforts of the Anticancer Fund in drug repurposing. ‘Repurposing medicines is the underrated champion of sustainable innovation in oncology’ was the conclusion of a policy brief of WHO Europe for a joint meeting between the EU-Directors for Pharmaceutical Policy and the Pharmaceutical Committee of the European Commission, earlier this month.
Drug repurposing is a strategy to identify new uses for approved drugs, outside the scope of their original indication. As COVID-19 urged the health community to come up with solutions, drug repurposing was defined as an essential strategy to find a cure. The logic is the same in oncology. Drug repurposing can rapidly deliver new cancer therapies.
‘Repurposing is an opportunity for more effective and affordable medicines to treat cancer in areas of unmet needs. It has proven effective during the current pandemic. Due to the lack of financial interest from the pharmaceutical industry, the involvement of non-commercial stakeholders, such as academic institutions and not-for-profit organisations, was recognised as necessary to achieve this goal, which poses a number of challenges in approving the changed use of an already authorised medicine. It is therefore essential to create an appropriate environment that will support non-commercial stakeholders in their data acquisition activities for new therapeutic uses’, was the statement of the policy-makers.
The meeting was co-organised and co-chaired by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Commission and was attended by more than 110 representatives from the European Commission, 26 EU -Member States, Norway, Iceland, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Council of Europe (European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines), as well as WHO Europe and invited distinguished international experts.
The Anticancer Fund shared its renowned expertise in drug repurposing for the event. Lydie Meheus, managing director of the Anticancer Fund, made a presentation about the rise of repurposing medicines in science and about how the public sector should take ownership and should support more independent clinical research on drug repurposing. ‘If Europe demonstrates entrepreneurship, drug repurposing could lead to valuable and affordable new cancer treatments’, she said.
In advance of the meeting the participants received a policy brief on drug repurposing, published by the Slovenian Presidency of the EU, together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies: ‘Repurposing of medicines in oncology – the underrated champion of sustainable innovation.’
The Anticancer Fund is mentioned a few times in the document, for its leading voice in drug repurposing. Our Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) database is mentioned, with a list of 335 non-cancer drugs that have shown some evidence of anticancer activity.