Sometimes a drug’s side effects turn out to be more important, or at least more lucrative, than its original purpose. A drug that was developed to address heart problems took off when it was repurposed under the name Viagra. Wellbutrin is used to treat depression, but also became an aid to quit smoking under the name Zyban. These were repurposed after rigorous medical studies. An earlier case of drug repurposing happened outside of the lab and involved an over-the-counter cold remedy.
In the 1930s, phenylpropanolamine (PPA) was developed and marketed as a nasal decongestant, to relieve symptoms of colds, asthma, and allergies. It was sold over-the-counter under many brand names; you are most likely to recall the cold pills called Contac. The drug had a side effect that caused users to feel less hungry. In the 1950s, the patent for PPA lapsed, and manufacturers of diet pills jumped on that side effect, marketing PPA as a miracle diet aid. The FDA had not approved of its use for appetite suppression, but since it was sold far and wide already for colds, there was little they could do about it. It took decades of studies and another rare but scary side effect to take PPA off the market. Read about the rise and fall of PPA at Mel magazine. -via Digg
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