Taking the type 2 diabetes drug thiazolidinediones (TZDs), also known as glitazones, could help prevent the development of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.
Norwegian researchers say those who use TZDs could lower their chances of developing the neurological condition by 35 per cent.
Lead co-author Charalampos Tzoulis, from the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Bergen (UiB), said: “We have made an important discovery, which takes us a step further towards solving the Parkinson’s riddle.”
TZDs are a group of oral anti-diabetic drugs designed to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. They help to lower insulin resistance, improve blood glucose control and also lower blood pressure.
The research team thinks the medication helps protect against Parkinson’s disease because it encourages the cells to make more mitochondria, which absorbs nutrients needed to create molecules for energy within the cells. Previous work carried out by the same team had already proven that mitochondria production can lower Parkinson’s risk.
The trial was based upon data from the Norwegian Prescription Database which was compared and analysed against different outcomes of diabetes medications. The system stored information from across a decade and on more than 100 million prescriptions.
In the data, there were 94,349 users of metformin and 8,396 of TZDs. The users of TZDs were found to have a 28 per cent lower incidence of developing Parkinson’s disease compared with the users of metformin.
The way the study has been run leaves a certain amount of doubt whether the lower risk was entirely down to TZD use. However, the results are significant enough to warrant further research.
More work is set to be carried out to further understand the link between the medication and Parkinson’s and how it could aid future therapies. Tzoulis added: “If we understand the mechanisms behind the protectio, then we have a chance to develop a new treatment.”
At the moment there is no cure for the condition, but there are lots of treatments and therapies available for people to use to try to manage it. It is thought there are about 127,000 people in the UK with the condition and most are aged 50 or over, according to the charity Parkinson’s UK.
The findings of the study were published in the Movement Disordersjournal.

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