Small study shows that diabetes drug may affect a common sign of Alzheimer's disease

Reports today claim that a diabetes drug could 'stop Alzheimer's in its tracks'. This is from a small study that showed some improvements in how the brain uses energy but not in cognitive tests.

A drug used to treat diabetes called liraglutide has shown potential to help people with Alzheimer's disease in a small study published today  in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

In a small trial of 38 people with Alzheimer's disease, taking the injectable drug every day for 6 months prevented a reduction in the amount of energy being used by the brain as seen in a brain scan. In comparison, the group of people taking a placebo drug showed a significant decline in brain energy use over the 6 months.

There was no difference between those taking the drug and those taking a placebo in cognitive tests. There was also no difference between groups in the amount of amyloid protein in their brains, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. 

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'Testing drugs that are already used to treat other conditions is a way to speed up the search for the next effective dementia treatment. Previous animal studies have shown that the diabetes drug liraglutide can reverse some of the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease and improve memory.

 'Today’s encouraging results show that the drug can prevent a decline in the amount of energy used by the brain, something that we know occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. Although the study was too small to test whether this has any positive effects on memory and thinking, these results are a sign that we’re heading in the right direction. Alzheimer’s Society is now funding a larger trial of liraglutide and we are looking for more participants with mild Alzheimer’s disease to take part.

'To find out if you are eligible to take part in the research, sign up to Join Dementia Research online or call the Alzheimer’s Society helpline.'