From Ozempic to Viagra: The drugs designed for one thing that ended up treating something else

In the world of pharmaceuticals, some of the most revolutionary products often have unexpected origins.

Throughout history, and in the modern world, research has often led to discoveries of drug side-effects that have opened new avenues for treatment.

Here, ITV News explores the drugs which have been developed away from their intended uses after they proved to provide unforeseen treatment for other medical issues.

Ozempic

Semaglutide, sold under the brand names Wegovy, Ozempic and Rybelsus, was initially developed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes earlier this decade and later for its benefits seen on obesity.

It works to lower high blood sugar by increasing the amount of insulin that is released in the body, lowering the amount of glucagon released.

But during trials it was also found to suppress appetite and, after several studies, was approved as an effective weight loss and control method.

The medical world is constantly making new discoveries, and one of the latest was unveiled on Tuesday, in a study funded by a drug manufacturer.

A trial – run by the company Novo Nordisk – into semaglutide, explored whether it could reduce the risk of heart attacks or stroke in obese people without diabetes.

After 20 weeks of being on semaglutide, 62% of patients had lost more than 5% of their bodyweight compared with 10% of patients in the placebo group.

However, the risk reduction of heart attacks, stroke or heart failure was similar in patients who lost more than 5% of their bodyweight and in those who lost less.

But the drug, which had been hailed as a “game-changer”, has also been linked to “severe gastrointestinal problems” in a separate study by the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Researchers said the jabs were found to heighten the probability of pancreatitis, bowel obstructions, and stomach paralysis in non-diabetics.

Viagra

Viagra has revolutionised the treatment of erectile dysfunction. But the iconic blue pill was once used for an entirely different course of action.

In the early 1990s, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer – which created the drug – was conducting clinical trials on a compound called Sildenafil as a potential treatment for hypertension and angina pectoris, a form of chest pain.

But throughout the trials, it was noticed that male participants saw an increase in erections, which led to Viagra’s development later that decade.

Botox is designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Credit: AP

Botox

Botox, short for botulinum toxin, has become synonymous with wrinkle reduction and facial enhancement.

But it was originally developed in the 1970s as a treatment for strabismus, a condition name for the abnormal alignment of eyes.

Botox was used in medical application to help with the correction of crossed eyes and other eye muscle disorders.

In the late 1980s, patients reported diminished frown lines and wrinkles as a side effect of the treatment.

By the early 2000s it was approved as a commercial cosmetic surgery.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil was originally developed as a treatment for high blood pressure in the late 1950s.

However, in the 1980s researchers noticed that it caused hair growth as a side effect. This led to its formulation as a topical solution for treating hair loss.

Aspirin

Aspirin is one of the most widely used over-the-counter medications and is able to be traced back to the 1800s.

It was initially used in a clinical trial as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat mild pain and reduce fevers.

But the following century, its anti-platelet properties were discovered, leading to its widespread use in preventing heart attacks and strokes.


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