Liraglutide is a prescription drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. In Alzheimer's disease, brain cells are often insulin resistant. And preclinical and preliminary clinical evidence suggest that liraglutide may benefit patients by controlling type 2 diabetes and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease or by improving insulin resistance in the brain. Though it is generally safe when used as prescribed, liraglutide may cause gastrointestinal side effects.
There is limited clinical evidence on liragultide in Alzheimer's patients. Our search identified:
• One preliminary randomized controlled trial in patients with Alzheimer's disease
• Several meta-analyses for type 2 diabetes and obesity
• Multiple preclinical studies in aging and Alzheimer's disease
Meta-analyses of human studies reported that liraglutide was able to control type 2 diabetes and benefit patients with obesity , which are risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. However, at this time there is no adequate clinical trial data showing that liraglutide is beneficial for prevention of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.
Preclinical studies suggest that liraglutide does reach the brain and may have many benefits including improved cognition, increased production of new neurons, decreased biological markers of Alzheimer's disease, decreased inflammation, and decreased brain cell death [3-14]. These benefits were seen when the drug was given in early and late stages of the disease . However, another study reported contradictory results, with no benefits after liraglutide treatment . The reason for these contradictory results is unclear.
A small randomized controlled trial in patients with Alzheimer's disease reported that a 26 week treatment with liraglutide did not improve cognition or reduce amyloid plaques. However, it did prevent a decline in brain metabolism , which could allow brain cells to function longer.
Liraglutide is generally safe for most people with type 2 diabetes or obesity, although it is associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal symptoms (such as nausea and diarrhea) and gallstones . Preclinical studies suggest some concerns over chronic use and pancreatitis or thyroid cancer, but meta-analyses of previous studies do not show an increased risk [18-20]. But there are no long-term studies in healthy adults, so an increased risk with long-term use cannot be discounted.
Liraglutide should not be taken with other drugs that can cause hypoglycemia (such as insulin and gatifloxacin) or bexarotene (which can increase the risk of pancreatitis). It can also slightly increase resting heart rate so should be taken with caution in patients with cardiovascular disease . Liraglutide is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.
Liraglutide is available by prescription to treat type 2 diabetes. It can be administered at home with a subcutaneous injection. Typical doses start at 0.6 mg/day for one week and increased to 1.2-1.8 mg/day.
The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation is currently funding a clinical trial being conducted by Dr. Paul Edison to test liraglutide in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
For additional safety and drug interactions, see Drugs.com.