A multidisciplinary team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), have recently released results from a retrospective study showing that Glitazone, a type of drug used to treat diabetes may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD). The study, entitled, “Glitazone Treatment and Incidence of Parkinson’s Disease among People with Diabetes: A Retrospective Cohort Study,” was funded by the The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and published in the latest on-line edition of PLOS Medicine.
Glitazones are a class of drugs that activate PPARγ, an important receptor found inside the cells of many of our body’s organs. The activation of this receptor leads to reduced insulin resistance, making it an effective therapeutic option for patients with diabetes.
To assess if these drugs could have a therapeutic effect on PD, the investigators analyzed data originating from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink’s electronic health records of more than 160,000 diabetes patients in the UK and matched 44,597 glitazone users with 120,373 people using other antidiabetic drugs, by age, sex, GP practice, and diabetes treatment stage. These matched patients were followed from 1999 (when glitazones were introduced to treat diabetes) until 2013, and the percentage of patients diagnosed with PD was compared by the matched treatment groups.
The findings showed a 28% reduction in PD incidence among people taking glitazones compared with those taking other antidiabetic treatments. This increase was still significant even after adjusting for risk factors associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as a history of smoking and head injury.
In a University press release, Dr. Ian Douglas, PhD, MSc, professor Department of Non-communicable Disease Epidemiology, LSHTM, and senior study author, stated, “We often hear about negative side effects associated with medications, but sometimes there can also be unintended beneficial effects. Our findings provide unique evidence that we hope will drive further investigation into potential drug treatments for Parkinson’s disease. It’s thought that around one in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s, and to date no effective treatments have been found to directly tackle the neurodegenerative aspect of the disease.”
This sentiment was shared by Dr. Douglas’s colleague and contributing study author, Dr Ruth Brauer, “Our results suggest that treatments which activate the PPARγ receptor in the same way as glitazones could be promising targets in future drug research. Although our study only looked at people with diabetes, we believe it’s likely that the protective effect of glitazones may also be seen in people without diabetes.”
This is the first study to show the relationship between glitazone use and the incidence of PD in human patients. All stakeholders in the PD community including patients and healthcare providers, will now have to wait for further clinical testing to be undertaken, so that the results can be confirmed and if successful, there will possibly be a new therapeutic treatment available for the disease.