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Diabetes medication appears to slow progress of Parkinson's disease in French-backed trial

By Ciara Linnane

Lixisenatide slowed the onset of symptoms such as tremor and balance issues in 156-patient trial

A Type 2 diabetes medication called lixisenatide appeared to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease symptoms in a small, mid-stage trial funded by the French Ministry of Health and others, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on Thursday.

The placebo-controlled trial involved 156 patients who had been diagnosed less than three years before participating, who were receiving a stable dose of medications to treat symptoms and who did not have motor complications, the Journal reported.

The patients were randomly assigned to take lixisenatide, which is made by Sanofi SA (FR:SAN) (SNY), for 12 months, followed by a two-month washout period, which is a period during which participants are not allowed to participate in other trials.

The primary endpoint was the change from baseline in scores on a measurement of motor ability called MDS-UPDRS, standing for Movement Disorder Society-Unified Parkinson's disease Rating Scale, which ranges from zero to 132, with higher scores meaning greater disability.

Parkinson's causes a variety of symptoms including tremor, slowness, stiff limbs and balance issues, which typically worsen over time.

At 12 months scores in the group taking lixisenatide had changed by 0-0.04 points, which suggests improvement, and by 3.04 points in the placebo group, suggesting worsening disability.

Secondary endpoints involved scores measured over longer than 12 months and were also positive for the group taking the medication. Among adverse events, 46% of participants experienced nausea and 13% vomiting.

"Longer and larger trials are needed to determine the effects and safety of lixisenatide in persons with Parkinson's disease," the authors concluded.

Researchers said the news, while based on a small study, was still positive for patients.

While it's not a slam dunk, it is "nibbling at the edges of disease modification," Dr. Michael S. Okun, a Parkinson's disease expert at the University of Florida who was not involved in the study, told the New York Times.

Previous trials have found that patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of developing Parkinson's. An earlier trial of another diabetes drug called exenatide also appeared to slow the progression of Parkinson's symptoms, according to a report in The Lancet from 2017.

Exanitide and lixisenatide are GLP-1 drugs, the new class that include the highly popular Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for obesity. GLP stands for glucagon-like peptide. It works by mimicking the effect of a gut hormone that can help control blood-sugar levels and reduce appetite. The two market leaders, Eli Lilly & Co. Inc. (LLY) and Denmark's Novo Nordisk (NVO) (DK:NOVO.B) have seen their stocks soar on the high expectations for their drugs.

For more: Viking Therapeutics' promising weight-loss drug data makes the company a takeover target

Sanofi withdrew the distribution of lixisenatide in the U.S. at the beginning of 2024 for business reasons, as it said at the time, and not because of any safety or efficacy issues.

Sanofi's U.S.-listed shares were up 1.3% premarket, but are down 3.6% in the year to date, while the S&P 500 SPX has gained 9%.

-Ciara Linnane

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.


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04-04-24 1018ET

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