Diabetes Drug May Reduce Dementia Risk

shutterstock_292726181Numerous studies indicate that diabetes may have an effect on a patient’s mental health. Patients with diabetes are known to have a greater risk of developing dementia in later life than non-diabetics. But researchers are not yet sure how anti-diabetic drugs may affect or influence the increased dementia risk. A current study set out to investigate this issue. The results suggested that people with type 2 diabetes that were treated with anti-diabetics also reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Neurologist Michael Heneka along with demographers Gabriele Doblhammer and Anne Fink analyzed patient data spanning 2004 and 2010 that was provided by German public health insurance company AOK. The data set includes disease and medication information collected from 145,000 men and women aged 60 years old and above. Analysis of the data corroborated with previous findings that diabetics have an increased risk of developing dementia. However, the researchers also discovered that the risk can also be reduced significantly by an anti-diabetic drug known as pioglitazone. Taken in tablet form, this anti-diabetic drug is used for short-term and long-term treatment of diabetes as long as the body still has the ability of producing its own insulin.

According to Doblhammer,”Treatment with pioglitazone showed a remarkable side benefit. It was able to significantly decrease the risk of dementia. The longer the treatment, the lower the risk.”

The researchers noted that the most significant findings occurred in cases where the drug was administered to patients for at least two years. Diabetic patients who were taking the drug developed dementia less often than even the non-diabetics. “The risk of developing dementia was around 47 percent lower than in non-diabetics, i.e. only about half as large,” Doblhammer added.

The researchers also noted that metformin, another frequently prescribed antidiabetic drug,also lowered the risk of developing dementia in diabetic patients, although the effect is lower compared to that of pioglitazone.
Pioglitazone works by improving the effect of insulin that the body still produces. Not only that, laboratory tests have shown that the said drug also protects the nerve cells. “Pioglitazone is an anti-inflammatory drug that also inhibits the deposition of harmful proteins in the brain,” neurologist Michael Heneka says.

But Heneka also stated that the exact mechanisms are not yet that fully understood. “Our study suggests that pioglitazone has a preventive effect. This happens when the drug is taken before symptoms of dementia manifest. Thus, it protects in particular against Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. The causes for this, whether pioglitazone only has this protective effect in diabetics or if it would also work in non-diabetics — all these questions have yet to be answered. The next logical step would therefore be clinical studies. These studies would specifically investigate the effect of pioglitazone and other antidiabetics on dementia,”Heneka concluded.

Source: DZNE – German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. (2015, June 23). Diabetes medication reduces dementia risk: Analysis of health insurance data suggests preventive effect. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150623114008.htm


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