This is not the first time diabetes treatments have been tried in Alzheimer’s disease. Novo Nordisk’s Victoza (liraglutide), a GLP-1 agonist, has undergone small clinical trials in people with Alzheimer’s. The results “have shown real promise,” said Doug Brown, Ph.D., director of research and development at the London-based Alzheimer's Society, in the statement.
That said, the most heavily cited clinical trial of Victoza in Alzheimer’s only showed a reduction in the buildup of amyloid plaque. But there was no difference in cognitive ability between trial participants who received the drug and those who took a placebo. That likely explains why further investigation of GLP-boosting drugs in Alzheimer’s has ground to a halt.
Other drugs targeting amyloid plaque have failed in recent years. They include Eli Lilly’s solanezumab and Pfizer's bapineuzumab. The amyloid hypothesis is far from dead, though. Several companies are investigating drugs designed to prevent the buildup of amyloid plaques by inhibiting a protein called BACE, including Biogen, Amgen and Novartis.
So-called triple-agonist diabetes drugs have not yet been tried in people, according to the Lancaster statement, and more work needs to be done before the compound is ready for clinical trials. Lead researcher Christian Holscher, Ph.D., a professor at Lancaster University, says his team will need to do more dose-response testing and test the drug against others that have been tried in Alzheimer’s to determine if it makes sense to move forward.