Alzheimer's Disease Treatment Reduces Inflammation Related to Metabolic Syndrome

Galantamine observed to reduce pro-inflammatory markers in patients with metabolic syndrome.

A drug approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease was found to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance among patients with metabolic syndrome, according to a study published by JCI Insight. These findings could present novel treatment options for patients with the condition, the authors suggest.

Metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, according to the authors. These factors heighten the risk for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Currently, there are no treatments for metabolic syndrome, which causes physicians to only treat the symptoms.

Galantamine (Razadyne) is a cognition-enhancing medication that is indicated to treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The authors found that treatment with galantamine lowered markers of inflammation by more than 25%.

The authors previously discovered that galantamine reduced inflammation in mice with obesity.

“It’s been very tough to come up with a treatment that targets all the components of metabolic syndrome, which is becoming a pandemic because it stems from obesity,” said corresponding author Valentin A. Pavlov, PhD. “By repurposing galantamine, it means we don’t have to start from zero to establish its safety. We already know it’s safe.”

Galantamine is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which slows the breakdown of acetylcholine neurotransmitters.

“Galantamine can target the entire syndrome as well as targeting components of the syndrome,” said study co-author Yael Tobi Harris, MD. “Using an existing drug is a much faster way of getting a treatment out there. It’s promising, it makes me optimistic, and it’s a starting point indicating an avenue of research that should be pursued further.”

Included in the study were 60 patients with metabolic syndrome who were randomized to receive daily graduated doses of the drug or placebo for 12 weeks. The authors tracked inflammation related to metabolic syndrome during treatment. Insulin levels, insulin resistance, heart rate, heart rate variability, and other cardiovascular or metabolic markers were also tracked.

At the end of 12 weeks, the authors found that patients treated with galantamine had reduced levels of pro-inflammatory molecules compared with patients treated with placebo, according to the study. Galantamine-treated patients were also observed to have higher levels of anti-inflammatory molecules compared with patients in the placebo group.

“What galantamine does is activate the nervous system to decrease inflammation,” Dr Harris said. “And because the inflammation is causing insulin resistance…we then see a decrease in insulin resistance.”

The authors noted that the doses of the drug used in the study were lower than the daily approved dose of the drug for Alzheimer’s disease, which suggests that toxicity may not be a concern. Additionally, no patients experienced adverse events, according to the study.

“Our results are even more impressive because they were achieved with relatively low doses,” Dr Pavlov said.

The authors said that longer clinical trials that include higher numbers of patients with metabolic syndrome, including those with type 2 diabetes, are needed, according to the study.

“These findings illustrate that it may be possible to treat inflammation in metabolic syndrome,” study co-author Kevin J. Tracey, MD, said. “Bringing down inflammation and insulin resistance may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other complications.”