Some arthritis drugs may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementia in patients with heart disease

press release

Friday April 8, 2022


New knowledge from the ongoing Drug Repurposing for Effective Alzheimer’s Medicines (DREAM) study suggest that certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs may reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in people with cardiovascular disease. While the results do not support the widespread use of these drugs to treat Alzheimer’s and related dementia, the results could point to a promising precision medicine approach in specific groups at risk for developing these diseases. The study was published in JAMA network open and led by scientists from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

The discovery of new drug targets for Alzheimer’s and related dementias is crucial to address the enormous public health challenge posed by these diseases. Previous studies on whether approved rheumatoid arthritis drugs reduce the risk of dementia have had mixed results. In this study, researchers analyzed data in Medicare claims from more than 22,000 people and looked at whether those with rheumatoid arthritis who took one of three different classes of arthritis medication were protected from dementia. There were no statistically significant associations with a reduced risk of dementia except in patients with cardiovascular disease treated with a class of arthritis drugs called TNF inhibitors. These inhibitors suppress the immune system by blocking the activity of TNF, a substance in the body that causes inflammation and can lead to immune system disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis.

The previously identified NIA DREAM study several drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration being tested as treatment candidates for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.


NIA experts are available for interviews to discuss specific findings of this paper and/or the broad overview of the state of Alzheimer’s and related dementia research. NIA is the leading US federal agency for research into these diseases. NIA scientists and funded research teams are exploring drugs that target multiple different disease pathways, considering combinations of treatments, and working to reuse existing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Study senior author:

  • Madhav Thambisetty, MD, Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Clinical and Translational Neuroscience, NIA Intramural Research Program

Broader perspectives:

  • Richard J. Hodes, MD, NIA Director
  • Luigi Ferrucci, MD, Scientific Director of the NIA

The research was funded in part by NIA Intramural Research Program project 1ZIAAG000436-01.

NIA leads the systematic planning, development, and implementation of NIH Research Milestones to achieve the goal of effective treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. These activities relate to NIA’s AD+ADRD Milestone 7.B“Initiate translational bioinformatics and network pharmacology research programs to support rational repositioning of drugs and combination therapies from discovery to clinical development.”


Desai R et al. Comparative risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia in Medicare beneficiaries with rheumatoid arthritis treated with targeted disease-modifying anti-inflammatory drugs. JAMA open. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.6567.

About the National Institute on Aging (NIA): NIA leads the US federal government’s efforts to conduct and support research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. Learn more about age-related cognitive changes and neurodegenerative diseases via NIAs Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementia Awareness and Referral (ADEAR) website.. Visit the main NIA website for information on a range of aging topics, in English and Spanishand stay in contact.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):NIH, the country’s medical research agency, comprises 27 institutes and centers and is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…turning discovery into health®


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