The progression of Parkinson’s disease could be halted by a drug currently used by people with type 2 diabetes.
Taking exenatide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) medication, eased the symptoms of people with the condition, according to a study run by researchers at University College London.
Exenatide, as a weekly injectio, is prescribed as Bydureon. It helps lower blood glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin secretio, inhibiting glucagon and reducing appetite.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition which affects the central nervous system and leads to symptoms including tremors, typically of the arms or hands, slow movement and muscle stiffness.
In the latest trial, 62 people with Parkinson’s disease received either a weekly injection of the drug or a placebo over a period of 48 weeks. The participants continued to take their regular Parkinson’s disease medications as well.
After the 48-weeks of treatment, there was a wash-out period of 12 weeks to help better assess whether changes in the symptoms of the disease had occurred.
The results showed that after the total 60-week period, disease severity scores improved to a significant level in those on exenatide and worsened in those treated with placebo.
The results show exenatide to be a promising treatment option. The researchers note that the study was relatively small and longer-term studies will be needed to assess the effects in a larger population before it can be properly considered as a viable Parkinson’s disease medication.
Professor of neurology at University College London and study co-author, Thomas Foltynie, stated: “What we have shown is that there is a 3.5 point advantage in using this drug. Now if that is all you get, then that is quite trivial, but if it is a cumulative advantage – so if after two years patients on placebo were six points worse and the exenatide group were stable then we have actually stopped disease progression and that is of enormous value.”
Deputy director of Parkinson’s UK, David Dexter, said: “The small benefits seen in this study are particularly promising because only a low level of the drug injected actually reached the brain. This suggests that finding treatments that work in a similar way, but are better able to cross from the bloodstream into the brain, may be even more effective.”
The study is published in The Lancet journal and was funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

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