Now that Turing CEO Martin Shkreli has stirred a global frenzy over his move to jack up the price of Daraprim by more than 5,000%, it may be a good time to consider a potential alternative for treating toxoplasmosis. Investigators at the Indiana University School of Medicine say they found that the high blood pressure drug guanabenz is effective against the latent cyst state of the parasite that causes the ailment. And as it's already approved, it could be quickly repurposed.
The investigators published their findings published online in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy just days before the big controversy over Daraprim broke out. While most people aren't affected by the parasite, it can cause severe symptoms in some. The researchers concluded that based on their mouse study, guanabenz could combat the replicating stage of the disease while reducing the number of brain cysts.
"This finding was a big surprise and a potentially very important discovery," Dr. William Sullivan, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the IU School of Medicine, said in a release. "There are few reports of pharmacological agents that have an effect on the latent stage of toxoplasmosis. "Dr. [Imaan] Benmerzouga found a drug that decreases these cysts in mice--that is good news. The fact that this drug is already FDA-approved makes this great news."
Guanabenz, they add, works by disrupting a molecular signaling process that governs protein production as the parasite converts to an inactive state.
Shkreli tried to tamp down the online outburst over his move by promising to reduce the price of Daraprim--which he acquired and then repriced from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill--but he has yet to deliver on that promise. Shkreli attempted to reassure the public that he would use the money raised from Daraprim's sale to back research on a new drug that would be even better than the 62-year-old Daraprim. But that argument did little to squelch the popular rage.