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Diabetes drugs could treat Alzheimer's

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Medications used to treat hypertension, diabetes and skin conditions could double as treatments for Alzheimer's disease within 10 years, according to a study funded by Alzheimer's Society and led by King's College London.

The drugs or classes of drugs identified as potential Alzheimer's treatments by the study are high blood pressure medications from the calcium channel blockers family, which research suggests could 'substantially' reduce risk of dementia; diabetes medications exenatide and liraglutide, which stimulate the brain and have been shown to reduce the formation of plaques on the brain;

Minocycline, a tetracycline antibiotic used to treat acne; and Acitretin, a drug used to treat psoriasis which has been shown modify the way that proteins linked to dementia form.

The study also highlights the opportunity to explore available drugs for other conditions to find further new treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

Clive Ballard, director of research at Alzheimer's Society and professor of age related diseases at King's College London, said: 'Developing new drugs to treat the condition is incredibly important, but comes with a huge price tag and, for those affected by dementia, an unimaginable wait.

'This study identifies existing treatments and shows the potential to identify other similar drugs which are safe and if effective in clinical trials could be used to treat Alzheimer's disease in 10 years or less.'

Further research is needed before researchers know exactly how they could work for people with Alzheimer's. As a result people should not take these drugs for anything other than the conditions for which they are currently prescribed.

Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and affects 800,000 people in the UK. The condition has no cure, and a number of clinical trials of targeted dementia drugs have failed.

Last month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced £50 million of dedicated funding to create care environments for people with dementia, which aid treatment by helping keep patients calm.

Improved designs of this kind have been shown to support dementia patients and their carers in managing the condition, by reducing agitation and confusion.

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