Aspirin was originally developed as a painkiller, but now many people take it every day to prevent heart disease.

Scientists are taking a similar approach in their hunt to find medications to treat coronavirus: looking for drugs already approved for use in managing certain conditions that show promise in treating COVID-19.

Using a repurposed drug is the easiest path to take when looking for a new medical treatment, explains infectious diseases expert Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne.

“We have a good understanding of its safety, and the safety evaluation of new drugs takes a long time,” says Professor Lewin, who is the lead author on the Australian Rapid Research Information Forum’s report onĀ the most promising therapeutics for COVID-19.

That means for a repurposed drug, if you already have data on safety, you can skip phases of the clinical trials process. So instead of having to do phase I clinical trials you can go straight to either phase II, or in some cases phase III or a hybrid phase II and III.