Arthritis medications may lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease in certain patients



Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that affects six million older adults in the U.S. Identifying ways to prevent and treat AD and related causes of dementia, collectively referred to as ADRD, is a critical public health challenge. Researchers have tested whether drugs currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can prevent the development of ADRD, but these studies have yielded inconsistent results.


As a part of the Drug Repurposing for Effective Alzheimer’s Medicines (DREAM) initiative, IRP researchers led by Madhav Thambisetty, M.D., Ph.D., performed rigorous analyses of Medicare claims data to investigate whether patients with RA who were treated with any of three distinct classes of RA drugs were protected from ADRD. While the findings do not support broad use of these drugs as disease-modifying treatments for ADRD, the study’s results suggest that RA patients who have high risk factors for cardiovascular disease and who are treated with a class of RA drugs called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors may have a lower risk of developing ADRD.


The study’s findings suggests that TNF inhibitors may help to lower the chances of developing ADRD in patients at risk for cardiovascular disease. While further studies are required to confirm this hypothesis, the study represents an important initial step towards identifying drugs that can be repurposed as safe and effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.


Desai RJ, Varma V, Gerhard T, Segal J, Mahesri M, Chin K, Horton DM, Kim SC, Schneeweiss S, Thambisetty M. (2022). Comparative risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia among Medicare beneficiaries with rheumatoid arthritis treated with targeted disease modifying antirheumatic agents. JAMA Netw Open. Apr 1;5(4):e226567. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.6567.

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This page was last updated on Thursday, June 8, 2023