A team of scientists working in the UK have said that Novo Nordisk's diabetes drug Victoza has potential as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
Results from a early-stage study led by Professor Christian Hölscher at Lancaster University suggests that liraglutide – the active ingredient of Victoza - can reverse memory loss and the build-up of amyloid plaques on the brain related to the neurological condition.
The findings are based on studies into mice with late-stage Alzheimer's who were given the drug and were able to perform better on tests designed to measure their ability to recognised certain objects. These mice also showed a 30 per cent reduction in the build-up of plaques.
“Repurposing existing drugs as dementia treatments is an incredibly exciting way of bringing new treatments closer,” said Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer's Society, the research charity which funded the study.
“This exciting study suggests that one of these drugs can reverse the biological causes of Alzheimer's even in the late stages and demonstrates we're on the right track.”
Dr Brown also confirmed that the Alzheimer's Society plans to run a new trial to investigate further the potential of liraglutide in the disease.
The drug is already a major seller for Novo in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, reaching revenues of 9.5bn Danish krone (about €1.2bn) during 2012, but now it has shown its potential to pass through the blood-brain barrier, liraglutide could be on its way to earning even more as a treatment for neurological disorders.
Although at a very early stage, the Lancaster study results come as a major boost for research into Alzheimer's treatments, which has been hit in the past couple of years by major trial failures from Lilly, Pfizer/ Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Victoza isn't the only diabetes drug to show benefits in Alzheimer's, however, and last month Takeda started a phase III trial to investigate pioglitazone - the active ingredient of its diabetes treatment Actos – to see if it can delay progression of Alzheimer's.