Published On: Sun, Nov 22nd, 2015

Medicines With Benefits: 7 Positive Side Effects That Were Discovered By Accident

If history has taught us one thing, it’s that some of the most important medical advancements come from unintentional discoveries. For evidence, one need look no further than William Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray, and John Hopps’s revelation while working with radio frequencies which led to the pacemaker.

Medicine is no different. Often, researchers will find that a drug has a more potent or useful use for another purpose, than the one for which it was originally developed. Other times, a drug may also be deemed to be unsuitable for one use, but a relatively safe option for another. And then there are those drugs that began life as something different entirely, but go on to improve (or even save) thousands of lives.

Even some of the more widely-used treatments of today can trace their roots back to drastically different uses:

Botulinum Toxin

More commonly known as Botox, this medicine is actually a protein derivation from the bacteria clostridium botulinum. It was harnessed by doctors in the late 1970s to treat strabismus, a condition which causes the eyes to be misaligned. In such cases, botulinum was injected into the over-compensating muscle on one side of the eye, to bring it into alignment with the other.

The cosmetic use of botulinum to reduce wrinkles was observed in the 1990s, leading to the FDA’s approval of it for this purpose in 2002.


Most people have heard of this popular ED drug, largely due to its status as the fastest-selling medicine in history. Over 23 million prescriptions have reportedly been drawn since it become available in 1998, but few people realise that it was originally intended to treat angina.

The idea was to improve blood flow to the heart, but its initial clinical effectiveness in this respect was not successful. When tested patients later reported significantly increased erectile function, the use which would make Viagra a household name became clear, and studies into the drug were repositioned.


Developed in the mid-1950s, Ritalin (methylphenidate) was originally applied to the treatment of depression, before becoming more widely-used in attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Prescriptions of the drug increased dramatically in the 1990s, as doctors came to understand more about ADHD.

Recently, studies have found that methylphenidate can also significantly improve cognitive function; but a debate as to whether it should be issued for this purpose in patients is ongoing, as its long-term effects in such cases have not been explored.


photo Emuishere Pelicula via Flickr

photo Emuishere Pelicula via Flickr

The mixture of lidocaine and prilocaine was developed for use as a dermal anaesthetic agent, and is still primarily used for this. Healthcare professionals will often apply it prior to a minor skin procedure, such as a wart removal, or involving a needle.

Recently, however, this cream has been prescribed off-label for another use: premature ejaculation. When applied to the penis, it works by reducing penile sensitivity, and thereby increased ejaculatory latency. This use of EMLA remains off-label.


Priligy is currently the only treatment prescribed specifically for premature ejaculation, but was originally engineered with another use in mind. As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, dapoxetine, the active ingredient, was intended for the treatment of depression. When it was found to have less than sufficient efficacy for this function, it then underwent redevelopment as a treatment for PE.


Otherwise known as Diane-35, cyproterone acetate was first developed in the 1960s as an antiandrogen. It is today prescribed in the UK for skin conditions such as acne in women, however the drug hasn’t always been used solely for this purpose.

Historically, the drug has been trialled for a range of uses, including hirsutism, prostate cancer, obsessive compulsive disorder, and even as hormone replacement therapy in transgender care. Its hormonal properties have seen it issued more notably as a contraceptive pill, but it is no longer prescribed for this use alone, due to its high potential for side effects.


This item was in fact, not originally a medicine at all. It was a dye, developed in 1909 and used commercially to treat leather. It wasn’t until 1932 when Gerhard Domagk began to investigate its antibacterial qualities, that the medicinal potential of this product became apparent. Following this discovery, Prontosil went on to become one of the first broad-spectrum antibiotics, used for streptococcal infections.

Guest Author: Lolita Di

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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