Certain Prostate Meds Might Help Prevent Dementia

WEDNESDAY, June 20, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Prostate medications might help reduce the risk of a specific type of dementia, a new study suggests.

People were less likely to develop Lewy body dementia when taking drugs designed to treat urinary symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate, researchers reported June 19 in the journal Neurology.

“These results are exciting, because right now there are no drugs to prevent or treat dementia with Lewy bodies, which is the second most common neurodegenerative type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease,” said researcher Jacob Simmering, an assistant professor of internal medicine with the University of Iowa.

“If we can determine that an existing drug can offer protection against this debilitating disease, that has the potential to greatly reduce its effects,” Simmering added in a journal news release.

Lewy body dementia affects more than 1 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). It’s caused by the protein alpha-synuclein, which forms abnormal deposits called Lewy bodies that affect chemicals in the brain.

This form of dementia can cause thinking and memory issues, movement problems and even visual hallucinations, the NIA says. More than 80% of people with Lewy body dementia see things that aren’t really there.

For this study, researchers focused on the drugs terazosin, doxazosin and alfuzosin, which help men urinate more easily despite an enlarged prostate. These meds help relax muscles in the prostate and bladder.

However, the three drugs also activate an enzyme important for energy production in brain cells, and previous studies have shown a link between these drugs and Parkinson’s disease, researchers said.

Lewy body dementia is similar to Parkinson’s, so researchers decided to see if the drugs might help these patients as well.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 126,000 men taking one of the three drugs, and compared them against more than 517,000 men taking two other types of prostate medication that don’t activate that enzyme.

Results show that men taking one of the three drugs were around 40% less likely to develop Lewy body dementia than those taking the two other meds.

“More research is needed to follow people over time and determine whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship here, but it is promising to think that these drugs could have a protective effect on this disease that will likely affect a larger number of people as the population ages,” Simmering said. 

Researchers warned that since only men were included in the study, the results might not apply to women. Lewy body dementia appears to affect slightly more men than women, the NIA notes.

In addition, Lewy body dementia can be tough to diagnose, so it’s possible the researchers didn’t catch everyone who’d developed the brain disease.

More information

The National Institute on Aging has more about Lewy body dementia.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, June 19, 2024