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Diabetic drug Actos may also act to stave off Alzheimer's in older patients

It is predicted that the rate of Alzheimer's will double every five years for those between 65 and 85 years of age.
It is predicted that the rate of Alzheimer's will double every five years for those between 65 and 85 years of age.
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

A major clinical trial in Germany has found that the drug Actos (pioglitazone), used to treat Type 2 diabetes, also seems to be effective in warding off symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, although actual definitive proof from a “more formal trial” may not be conducted for another 5 years.

In the meantime, scientists led by Anne Fink, a researcher for the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases based their current conclusions on data collected from the healthcare records of approximately 146,000 patients 60-years old and older between 2004-2010, who exhibited no initial signs of dementia. Statistics revealed that while “13,841 of the patients eventually developed dementia, the risk for those taking pioglitazone was “significantly lowered with each additional 3 months the drug was prescribed.”
Fink’s study was in line with a five-year study, now being conducted by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, (which manufactures Actos) together with privately held Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals Inc, to determine if low doses of pioglitazone are able to delay the onset of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's. Previous studies of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes have already determined that “those with poor blood sugar control are much more likely to develop dementia,” yet those who took thiazolidinedione medications (like Actos) were found to have almost 20% less risk of Alzheimer's than diabetics taking insulin.

"The brain requires a lot of energy," Stephen Brannan, in charge of central nervous system drug development at Takeda. What these tests seem to imply is that pioglitazone may help arrest Alzheimer's by improving the function of mitochondria: (energy-producing compartments in every cell of the body except red blood cells), which, in turn could improve brain function and thereby help stave off Alzheimer's Disease.”

Note: More than 18 million people in the United States have now been diagnosed with some form of Alzheimer's disease, with the rate expected to keep increasing in those 65-85 years old.