Could Asthma Medications Be A Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease?

The very same medicine that is commonly prescribed to treat asthma might also act as a means to prevent Parkinson’s disease. This is what a new chronic disease treatment study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Bergen (Norway) say that the study suggests medicines that treat asthma (and also, apparently, high blood pressure) might have some effect on a person’s risk of getting Parkinson’s disease. More specifically, though, the research team says that asthma medication could actually cut Parkinson’s risk by roughly 50 percent. On the other hand, taking certain blood pressure medications might double the risk.

University of Bergen professor, Trond Riise, notes, “Our analysis of data from the whole Norwegian population has been decisive for the conclusion in this study. Our discoveries may be the start of a totally new possible treatment for this serious disease. We expect that clinical studies will follow these discoveries.”

In the study, researchers looked at data from more than 100 million Norwegian prescriptions filled over the last 11 years. Sure enough, they found that Parkinson’s disease was associated with both asthma prescriptions and hypertension prescriptions. And this is what gave the researchers an opportunity to investigate the link(s).

Now, the researchers also advise that this is a preliminary discovery. Indeed, they still need to do a lot more research on the link between these medications and Parkinson’s disease before they can start making medication suggestions.

What we do know, for now, is that asthma (and other lung condition) drugs contain compounds called beta-2 adrenergic agonists. Essentially, these compounds dilate the air ways. You can typically find these in drugs like albuterol (ProAir, Ventolin) and metaproterenol.

Commenting on the research, Brigham and Women’s Hospital neurologist and lead author Dr. Clemens Scherzer comments, “We think this is an exciting potential pathway to developing new treatments for Parkinson’s.” He also makes sure to caution, again, that this by no means is any time to start prescribing asthma medications as a Parkinson’s treatment.

Parkinson’s disease remains quite mysterious in the medical community. While we can identify the symptoms—shivering, stiffening of the arms and legs, poor coordination, all caused by destruction of brain cells—we still do not know the cause.

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