Drugs for enlarged prostate could prevent neurodegeneration

Neurodegenerative disorders

A new study suggests that certain drugs commonly used to treat enlarged prostate may also decrease the risk for dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and potentially other neurodegenerative diseases.

This observational finding mirrors previous work by the University of Iowa (UI) Health Care team that links the drugs to a protective effect in Parkinson’s disease.

“Diseases like dementia with Lewy bodies, or Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease are debilitating, and we don’t really have any good treatments that can modify the disease progression,” explained lead study author Jacob Simmering, UI Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine. “One of the most exciting things about this study is that we find that same neuroprotective effect that we saw in Parkinson’s disease. If there is a broadly protective mechanism, these medications could potentially be used to manage or prevent other neurodegenerative diseases.”

For the new study, the UI researchers identified more than 643,000 men with no history of DLB who were newly starting one of six drugs used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate).

Three of the drugs, terazosin, doxazosin, and alfuzosin (Tz/Dz/Az) can boost energy production in brain cells. The other drugs, finasteride and dutasteride, do not enhance energy production in the brain.

“We found that men who took Tz/Az/Dz drugs were less likely to develop a diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies,” Simmering said. “Overall, men taking terazosin-type medications had about a 40% lower risk of developing a DLB diagnosis compared to men taking tamsulosin, and about a 37% reduction in risk compared to men taking five alpha reductase inhibitors.”

“If terazosin and these similar medications can help slow this progression – if not outright preventing the disease – this would be important to preserving cognitive function and quality of life in people with DLB.”

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW 

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