Metformin May Protect Diabetic Brain

Parkinsons disease risk in diabetes patients reduced by metformin treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It seems too many conditions are associated with diabetes. Some are linked to the disease itself, while others may be caused by the drugs diabetes patients take. Parkinson's is one of these conditions.

People with diabetes may have an increased risk of Parkinson's disease, especially if they use sulfonylureas - a type of drug commonly used to treat diabetes.

However, patients who use metformin - another common diabetes drug - appear to be protected from this increased risk.

"Ask your diabetes specialist about metformin."

Metformin has been a standard in diabetes treatment for decades. Not only has the drug proven safe and effective, but it is also relatively cheap.

Now, Professor Mark Wahlqvist, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues have shown that metformin may prevent Parkinson's disease in diabetes patients.

Through their research, Professor Wahlqvist and colleagues found that people with diabetes may have more than twice the risk of Parkinson's disease, compared to those without diabetes.

The use of sulfonylureas - such as Gluocotrol (glipizide) or Amaryl (glimepiride) - increases the risk further by 57 percent.

Fortunately, when patients in the study included metformin in their treatment, the researchers could find no increased risk of Parkinson's disease.

"An exciting aspect of the finding is that metformin seems to be working to protect the brain against neurodegeneration, which contributes to Parkinsonism," says Professor Wahlqvist.

"This means it may also be considered a relevant therapy for the prevention of dementia as well," he adds.

More study is needed to figure out how metformin is protecting the brain. It is possible that the drug resets the regulation of energy metabolism in cells.

The study - which included 800,000 Taiwanese men and women - is published in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 17, 2012
Last Updated:
April 18, 2012