This old drug could help treat dementia, study finds

Credit: Tim Doerfler / Unsplash

A recent study from St George’s and elsewhere found that the drug tadalafil may be effective in treating people with vascular dementia.

Dementia is an escalating global healthcare challenge, estimated to affect 55 million people worldwide, increasing to 139 million by 2050.

There are few treatment options for dementia patients, and this study explored whether repurposing an existing drug, tadalafil, may have the potential for treating vascular dementia—a common type of dementia in which there is reduced blood flow to the brain.

Previous research found that sildenafil and vardenafil, drugs commonly used to increase blood flow in pulmonary hypertension (a form of lung disease), could be possible candidates for preventing or delaying dementia.

Tadalafil belongs to the same group of drugs, and the researchers hypothesize that the mechanisms that increase blood flow in other parts of the body, may also apply to the brain—providing brain cells with a healthier blood supply and reducing dementia symptoms.

Tadalafil was selected as the drug candidate for the trial because of its longer half-life (remaining in the bloodstream for longer) and evidence that it is better able to enter the brain than its related drugs.

In the study, researchers found a trend for increased blood flow in older participants (those aged over 70) in the white matter of the brain, which is the area most important for vascular dementia.

No serious adverse events were recorded during the trial, suggesting the drug is relatively safe for patients.

The team believes that further work on tadalafil should be considered to explore its effectiveness in older age groups over a longer time period.

The research was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia and conducted by Dr. Jeremy Isaacs et al.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements could improve memory.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and vitamin E may help prevent Parkinson’s disease.

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