Medications that are used to treat conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and skin conditions could also be used for Alzheimer’s within the next 10 years. An unprecedented new study has recognized four existing drugs and one group of drugs that could potentially decrease risk, or impede symptoms of the disease.

This groundbreaking study, published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, is a critical component of ongoing drug discovery work which targets to speed up the process of searching for a cure or medications for dementia by specifically looking at existing treatments.

The following drugs or groups have been identified as possible Alzheimer’s treatments by the study:

  • High blood pressure medications – from the calcium channel inhibitors family. Research suggests these drugs may considerably decrease risk of dementia. (Example: Nilvadipine)
  • Diabetes medication (exenatide and liraglutide) – that arouse the brain and decrease the formation of plaques on the brain. (a key characteristic of dementia)
  • Minocycline – a tetracycline antibiotic used to treat acne.
  • Acitretin – a psoriasis drug, which researchers suggest have been seen to alter the way that proteins connect to dementia structure

The investigators of this study performed a systematic review of research on existing treatments that are already approved for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and hypertension. They put into order potential treatments for future study.

These recognized drugs have multiple actions which earlier research has shown us could be successful in treating the modifications that occur in the brian during Alzheimer’s disease.

More studies to further the knowledge of how these drugs function and how they could be prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s is currently underway, including research into liraglutide funded by Alzheimer’s Society. The current study also looks at the big opportunity to review available drugs for other conditions to find even more unused treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Progression of new treatments for Alzheimer’s can take years and cost millions. The drugs that were looked at in this study are readily available, and therefore will be less expensive and faster to modify into dementia treatments if effective.

These treatments are extremely promising, but further research is required to know specifically how they could work for people with Alzheimer’s. For now, people should not take these drugs for anything else other than the conditions they are prescribed for.

Dementia is caused by brain diseases and currently affects 800,000 people in the UK. It currently has no cure, and countless clinical trials of potential dementia medications have failed.

Lead author, Professor Clive Ballard who is Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society and Professor of Age Related Diseases at King’s College London, said:

“Defeating dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing both medicine and society as a whole. Developing new drugs to treat the condition is incredibly important, but comes with a huge price tag and, for those affected by dementia, an unimaginable wait. This study identifies existing treatments and shows the potential to identify other similar drugs which are safe and if effective in clinical trials could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease in 10 years or less. We are urgently working to take this work forward to start making a difference to the lives of people with dementia.”

These potential new uses of common medications could enable Alzheimer’s patients to live a more satisfying and fuller life.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald