Meta-analysis: Avandia's impact on Parkinson's should spur new research

A meta-analysis of data from more than 160,000 diabetics has offered some convincing data to support the theory that PPARγ activation by glitazones--either Avandia (GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) rosiglitazone) or pioglitazone--offers significant protection against Parkinson's disease. And the researchers who did the study say that their work should help accelerate work in the field.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine did the study, saying that they found that a large group of diabetics taking glitazones demonstrated a 28% reduction in the risk of developing Parkinson's when compared with tens of thousands of patients who were taking a different class of diabetes drugs.

"We often hear about negative side effects associated with medications, but sometimes there can also be unintended beneficial effects," says Dr. Ian Douglas. "Our findings provide unique evidence that we hope will drive further investigation into potential drug treatments for Parkinson's disease. It's thought that around one in 500 people are affected by Parkinson's, and to date no effective treatments have been found to directly tackle the neurodegenerative aspect of the disease."

So far, the glitazone hypothesis has only be tested in animals and lab settings. Now there's actual outcomes data to show that the mechanism works. And the investigators hope that it spurs new work on Parkinson's, one of the toughest targets in medicine.

"Our results suggest that treatments which activate the PPARγ receptor in the same way as glitazones could be promising targets in future drug research," says Dr. Ruth Brauer. "Although our study only looked at people with diabetes, we believe it's likely that the protective effect of glitazones may also be seen in people without diabetes."

The study was funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the report was published by PLOS Medicine.

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