New findings from the ongoing Drug Repurposing for Effective Alzheimer’s Medicines (DREAM) study suggest that certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs may lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in people with cardiovascular disease. While the findings do not support broad use of these drugs for treating Alzheimer’s and related dementias, the results may point to a promising precision-medicine approach in specific groups of people at risk for developing these diseases. The research was published in JAMA Network Open and led by scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging in collaboration with researchers at Harvard Medical School, Boston; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.
Discovering new drug targets in Alzheimer’s and related dementias is crucial for meeting the enormous public health challenge of these diseases. Prior studies on whether approved rheumatoid arthritis drugs lower the risk of developing dementia have produced mixed results. In this study, researchers analyzed data in Medicare claims from more than 22,000 people, looking at whether those with rheumatoid arthritis who took one of three different classes of arthritis drugs were protected from dementia. There were no statistically significant associations with lowered dementia risk except among those with cardiovascular disease who were treated with one class of arthritis drugs called TNF inhibitors. These inhibitors suppress the immune system by blocking the activity of TNF, which is a substance in the body that can cause inflammation and lead to immune-system diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
The NIA DREAM study previously identified several U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that are being tested as candidate treatments for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.