Biologic targets of prescription medications and risk of neurodegenerative disease in United States Medicare beneficiaries

Yizhe Song, Brad A. Racette, Alejandra Camacho-Soto, Susan Searles Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To identify prescription medications associated with a lower risk of three neurodegenerative diseases: Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Methods We conducted a population-based, case-control study of U.S. Medicare beneficiaries in 2009 (42,885 incident neurodegenerative disease cases, 334,387 randomly selected controls). Using medication data from 2006-2007, we categorized all filled medications according to their biological targets and mechanisms of action on those targets. We used multinomial logistic regression models, while accounting for demographics, indicators of smoking, and health care utilization, to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for 141 target-action pairs and each neurodegenerative disease. For targetaction pairs inversely associated with all three diseases, we attempted replication in a cohort study that included an active comparator group. We constructed the cohort by following controls forward for incident neurodegenerative disease from the beginning of 2010 until death or end of 2014, i.e., up to five years after the two-year exposure lag. We used Cox proportional hazards regression while accounting for the same covariates. Results The most consistent inverse association across both studies and all three neurodegenerative diseases was for xanthine dehydrogenase/oxidase blockers, represented by the gout medication, allopurinol. Allopurinol was associated with a 13-34% lower risk for each neurodegenerative disease group in multinomial regression, and a mean reduction of 23% overall, as compared to individuals who did not use allopurinol. In the replication cohort we observed a significant 23% reduction for neurodegenerative disease in the fifth year of follow-up, when comparing allopurinol users to non-users, and more marked associations with an active comparator group. We observed parallel associations for a related target-action pair unique to carvedilol. Discussion/Conclusion Xanthine dehydrogenase/oxidase blockade might reduce risk of neurodegenerative disease. However, further research will be necessary to confirm that the associations related to this pathway are causal or to examine whether this mechanism slows progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0285011
JournalPloS one
Issue number5 May
StatePublished - May 2023


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