Arthritis patients may be one-third less likely to develop Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease hope: Study finds arthritis and asthma medication reduces the risk of the condition by up to one-third and could pave the way for new treatment

  • People who take corticosteroids are 20% less at risk of suffering tremors
  • IMDH inhibitors reduce people’s risk of developing Parkinson’s by around a third
  • Corticosteroids are prescribed for asthma, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis
  • IMDH inhibitors treat arthritis, Crohn’s and organ transplant rejection
  • Around 60,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year

Arthritis and asthma medication reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to one-third and could pave the way for a new treatment, research suggests. 

People who take corticosteroids, which are commonly prescribed for asthma, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis, are 20 percent less at risk of suffering tremors, a study found today.

IMDH inhibitors, which are used to treat arthritis, Crohn’s and organ transplant rejection, reduce people’s risk of developing Parkinson’s by around a third, the research adds.

Lead author Dr Brad Racette, from the University of Washington, said: ‘We’ve found that taking certain classes of immunosuppressant drugs reduces the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

‘Our next step is to conduct a study with people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s to see whether these drugs have the effect on the immune system we’d expect.’

Although unclear, Parkinson’s may be caused by an overactive immune system, which the drugs work to reduce.

Around 60,000 people living in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year.

Arthritis and asthma patients may be up to one-third less likely to develop Parkinson’s (stock)


Research released in February 2018 provided fresh hope for a Parkinson’s disease cure.

Scientists discovered excessive calcium levels in the brain may be behind the condition that has previously left experts baffled.

Although the mineral plays a vital role in linking nerve endings with a protein, known as alpha-synuclein, which is critical for brain cell communication, excessive levels can trigger nerve cell death, a study found.

Study author Dr Amberley Stephens, from Cambridge University, said: ‘There’s a fine balance of calcium and alpha-synuclein in the cell, and when there is too much of one or the other, the balance is tipped and aggregation begins, leading to Parkinson’s disease.’

Parkinson’s disease is caused by these proteins folding into the wrong shape and sticking together to form filament-like structures, however, it was previously unclear why this occurs.

The researchers hope their findings could lead to the development of new treatments, such as calcium blockers, to combat the incurable condition.

They add eating calcium-rich foods, such as cheese, is not linked to the disorder.

Senior author Dr Gabriele Kaminski Schierle added: ‘The study relates to the control of calcium levels which will be the same in any human being independent of its dietary intake.’ 

Around 60,000 people living in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. It affects one in every 350 in the UK. 

The researchers analysed synaptic vesicles, which are part of nerve cells that store the neurotransmitters that send signals from one cell to another.

Calcium, which is found in dairy, as well as kale and sesame seeds, plays a role in the release of these neurotransmitters.

The scientists observed that when calcium levels in the nerve cells increase, the alpha-synuclein binds to synaptic vesicles at multiple points.

This causes the vesicles to come together, which indicates the role of alpha-synuclein is to help the chemical transmission of information across nerve cells. 

Scientists aim to slow disease progression 

Despite their findings, the researchers do not recommend immune-system suppressing drugs are prescribed to prevent Parkinson’s onset due to the medications’ risk of infections and cancer.

They add there is no accurate method to determine who is on track to develop the disease. 

Due to corticosteroids having a lot of side effects, such as high blood pressure and weight gain, the scientists plan to investigate IMDH inhibitors’ effects in Parkinson’s.

Dr Racette added: ‘It’s too early to be thinking about clinical trials to see whether it modifies the disease, but the potential is intriguing.

‘What we really need is a drug for people who are newly diagnosed, to prevent the disease from worsening. 

‘It’s a reasonable assumption that if a drug reduces the risk of getting Parkinson’s, it also will slow disease progression, and we’re exploring that now.’

How the research was carried out  

The researchers analysed the drug prescriptions of 48,295 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009 and 52,324 people without the condition.

They assessed which patients were prescribed immune-system suppressing drugs a year or more before their diagnosis.  

The findings were published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Medicine. 

Obese people are nearly 20% less likely to develop Parkinson’s  

This comes after research released last June suggested obese people are nearly 20 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s.

People who have an obese BMI throughout their lives are 18 percent less at risk of the condition, a study review found.

This may be be due to the weight disorder sharing genetic variants with factors that protect against the neurological condition, according to researchers.

Yet, the researchers warn the health risks of carrying excessive weight will likely outweigh any reduced susceptibility to Parkinson’s.

They said: ‘Although our results suggest that higher BMI is potentially protective against PD, the negative health impacts of raising BMI are likely to be significant, and should be taken into account.’ 

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