Arthritis DMARD drugs could half dementia development risk

Commonly prescribed drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could halve the risk of patients developing Alzheimer’s, according to a study.

The findings offer hope that the drugs could provide a potential treatment for dementia, for which there is currently no cure.

Researchers compared 3,876 patients who took disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), particularly methotrexate, which costs only 18p per tablet, with 1,938 patients who did not.

They found that those who took the drugs had approximately half the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

¿As inflammation is a characteristic feature of many other conditions, including dementia, drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and reduce inflammation may also be beneficial for patients with other diseases'

‘As inflammation is a characteristic feature of many other conditions, including dementia, drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and reduce inflammation may also be beneficial for patients with other diseases'

'The results make us optimistic we are getting closer to treating this neurological disease'

Lead researcher Professor Chris Edwards, of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said: ‘This study shows a positive link between patients taking drugs to treat arthritis and reducing their risk of developing dementia – potentially by up to 50 per cent.

‘The results we’ve seen make us optimistic that we are getting closer to better treating this neurological disease and supports further investigation in clinical trials to confirm if these drugs can be used to prevent or treat dementia.’

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.

It develops when the immune system attacks the cells that line the joints.

Professor Edwards, who worked with researchers from the University of Oxford, said the discovery shows that DMARDs could provide a potential dementia treatment.

‘As inflammation is a characteristic feature of many other conditions, including dementia, drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and reduce inflammation may also be beneficial for patients with other diseases,’ he said.

Following the findings, published in the journal Alzheimer’s And Dementia: Translational Research And Clinical Interventions, the Alzheimer’s Society has awarded Professor Edwards’ team £400,000 to continue their research.

'A care plan is only part of high-quality dementia support,' an NHS England spokesman said

'A care plan is only part of high-quality dementia support,' an NHS England spokesman said

Almost half of dementia patients lack a good care plan

It comes as a charity revealed yesterday that more than a third of dementia patients are denied the best care.

They should all be given an individual treatment plan when they are diagnosed.

But figures compiled by Age UK show that only 62 per cent of patients receive one, with care provision varied widely across the country. This means tens of thousands miss out on counselling sessions, specialist home visits and activities.

The charity analysed data from 7,185 GP practices and found that 458,461 adults had a recorded diagnosis of dementia in November 2017. However, only 282,573 had an up-to-date care plan. The plans should be updated at least once a year, according to NHS guidelines.

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘A care plan is only part of high-quality dementia support, which is why we have introduced new measures to help local NHS groups and GPs plan for ongoing care and will continue to help deliver further improvements.’ 

WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

A GLOBAL CONCERN 

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?

The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today.

It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.

In the US, it's estimated there are 5.5 million sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.

IS THERE A CURE?

Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

Source: Dementia UK