Ethical challenges of clinical trials with a repurposed drug in outbreaks

What ethical challenges we may encounter when launching clinical trials of a repurposed drug? We encourage you to read our new article published in Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy


Drug repurposing is a strategy of identifying new potential uses for already existing drugs. Many researchers adopted this method to identify treatment or prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the considerable number of repurposed drugs that were evaluated, only some of them were labeled for new indications. In this article, we present the case of amantadine, a drug commonly used in neurology that attracted new attention during the COVID-19 outbreak. This example illustrates some of the ethical challenges associated with the launch of clinical trials to evaluate already approved drugs. In our discussion, we follow the ethics framework for prioritization of COVID-19 clinical trials proposed by Michelle N Meyer and colleagues (2021). We focus on four criteria: social value, scientific validity, feasibility, and consolidation/collaboration. We claim that launching amantadine trials was ethically justified. Although the scientific value was anticipated to be low, unusually, the social value was expected to be high. This was because of significant social interest in the drug. In our view, this strongly supports the need for evidence to justify why the drug should not be prescribed or privately accessed by interested parties. Otherwise, a lack of evidence-based argument could enhance its uncontrolled use. With this paper, we join the discussion on the lessons learned from the pandemic. Our findings will help to improve future efforts to decide on the launch of clinical trials on approved drugs when dealing with the widespread off-label use of the drug.

Klas K, Strzebonska K, Waligora M. Ethical challenges of clinical trials with a repurposed drug in outbreaks.

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 2023.