Repurposing drugs to step up dengue fight

SHAH ALAM: The fight against dengue is being stepped up with the Health Ministry doing research into repurposing drugs together with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Institute for Medical Research (IMR).

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the research is now at the clinical trials stage.

“We are looking at several candidates. Repurposing of licensed drugs against dengue is a smart and strategic method because producing a new drug costs a lot of money and is very time-consuming,” he said, adding that a new drug could cost US$3bil (RM14.2bil at current rates) in terms of discovery and development.

Drug repurposing involves using existing drugs to treat a disease for which they were not originally intended. The side effects of the drug could help cure an entirely different medical condition.

Dzulkefly was speaking to reporters after officiating the Dengue Research Visibility Day 2024 at the National Institute of Health here yesterday.

Also present were Health Department director-general Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan and deputy director-general (research & technical support) Datuk Dr Nor Fariza Ngah.

Dzulkefly also said the drug repurposing will bring big benefits for DNDi and IMR.

“We will continue with these clinical trials until we find new antiviral candidates for drug repurposing. The clinical trials are conducted on people using a safe drug, but we have to see the efficacy against the dengue virus.

“Similar clinical trials will also be conducted in Brazil, Thailand and India,” he said.

Once the efficacy is proven, Malaysia will be the pioneer in the use of the repurposed drug against the dengue virus, he added.

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