A study of over 100,000 people from German healthcare records show the type 2 diabetes drug, pioglitazone, to be linked with lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Actos is in a class of drugs called thiazolidinediones, or TZDs for short. These drugs work by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Whilst thiazolidinediones have been shown to improve blood glucose control, researchers have been interested to understand whether this has benefits for the brain, particularly with regard to preventing or delaying forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers, from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases reviewed around 146,000 health records of people over 60 years of age that had no previous signs of dementia. Whilst nearly 1 in 10 people (13,841 participants) developed dementia between the years 2004 and 2010, rates of dementia amongst those taking pioglitazone (Actos) were significantly lower.
The results back up findings from previous studies that have also indicated reduced risks of dementia. Whilst the findings appear to show benefits for the drug, medical organisations will need to see clear evidence that the drug can prevent Alzheimers before it can be recommended, particularly as the side effects of Actos include a slightly increased risk of bladder cancer.
The manufacturers of the drug, Takeda, are currently running a five year clinical trial to see whether pioglitazone can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

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