A drug that is primarily used by people with diabetes could possibly be the key to help the millions of people with Parkinson's disease. The drug may work as a treatment that not only stops the disease's symptoms, but could also eventually prevent the disease itself from getting worse in the long-run.
Exenatide vs Placebo
Exenatide is a drug that's primarily used to treat diabetes. It is a glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP 1) receptor agonist that is used to regulate blood sugar levels in people with the disease. Now, apart from being a diabetes shot, researchers found evidence of its effectiveness in possibly treating Parkinson's disease.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, researchers from the University College London tested the drug's capability to treat Parkinson's disease. Eligible participants between the ages of 25 and 75 years were randomly given either the exenatide or a placebo drug, 32 of which were on exenatide and 30 on the placebo drug.
During the duration of the study, neither participants nor the administrators knew which people were being given the placebo and which ones were taking exenatide.
After 48 weeks of treatment and 12 weeks of additional study when participants were not given any injections, researchers found that the participants on exenatide reported a modest improvement in their motor ability, whilst those on the placebo drug reported getting worse.
Looking at the longer-term effects of the drug, its positive effects seem to have been sustained even beyond the period of exposure. However, whether this means that the drug treats the underlying causes of the disease or merely induces longer-lasting symptomatic effects is still unclear.
Though the results were not overwhelming for researchers, they believe that this provides promising evidence that could be useful in future studies. Especially with regard to the drug's possible long-term prospects, longer-term trials could shed light into the drug's potentials to treat the disease's root causes.
What's more, because of these promising results, repurposing the drug or any other similar GLP-1 antagonist to be more specific to Parkinson's disease could yield more positive results. As such, researchers believe that a longer-term study utilizing a bigger population would be worth exploring.
For now, they believe that it could still take years before the drug could be approved for clinical use, so both clinicians and patients are advised to hold back from using the drug to treat Parkinson's disease.
The study was carried out with the help of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the Department of Health National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centres. Results of the study are published in the journal The Lancet.