News In Context: Arthritis Drugs Linked to Lower Risk of Parkinson’s
Monday, 7th February 2022

new study, funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation, suggests that, among people with rheumatoid arthritis, use of the medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine may be associated with a decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

This might lead many to wonder, “Should I take one of these medications to prevent Parkinson’s? If I have Parkinson’s disease, will these slow progression?” The short answer is no.

This research does not prove that these drugs decrease risk of disease. It only shows a link, which is worthy of further investigation. And these drugs have potential side effects, such as heart rhythm changes, vision problems, rash and others. Doctors prescribe them carefully to people with rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions only when possible benefits outweigh risk. This research did not look at their effect in people already diagnosed with PD.

Now, more about this work.

Population studies have found a link between rheumatoid arthritis and lower rates of Parkinson’s disease. The reason for this is not known. But researchers wondered if medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which modify the immune system, may play a role. This group of drugs is known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

To answer this question, a research team led by Anna Paakinaho, MSc Pharm, of the University of Eastern Finland examined registries of health and prescription medication information. They compared the data of people with PD and rheumatoid arthritis to that of people with only rheumatoid arthritis. The groups were otherwise similar in age, sex and other characteristics.

The results, published in the journal Neurology, showed that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were associated with a 26 percent decreased risk of Parkinson’s. They did not find a similar link for other arthritis medications, such as methotrexate.

Why certain drugs are linked to Parkinson’s and others aren’t isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s the way they work. Or maybe it’s other, not-yet-identified factors, such as genetic changes or medical conditions that are common in people who take certain medications.

Like all research, this study has some limitations. It examined medical records, which could contain inaccuracies. It also looked only at a population of Finnish people who took these medications for rheumatoid arthritis and not other conditions for which they’re used, such as malaria. Finally, there may be people who will develop Parkinson’s but were not diagnosed during the timeframe examined.

Following links like this can help researchers learn more about what brings Parkinson’s on and find new ways to treat the disease.

Source: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research