Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treated with anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (anti-TNFα) therapy were found to be at significantly lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD) compared with those not exposed to anti-TNFα, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology.

Previous research has suggested a genetic and functional link between IBD and PD, however evidence regarding this association has been limited. “Systemic inflammation is a major component of IBD, and it’s also thought to contribute to the neuronal inflammation found in Parkinson’s disease,” explained Inga Peter, Professor in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai and lead investigator in the study. “We wanted to determine if anti-TNFα therapy, could mitigate a patient’s risk in developing Parkinson’s disease.”

Using the Truven Health MarketScan database and the Medicare Supplemental Database (January 1, 2000 to March 31, 2016), a total of 144,018 patients with IBD were matched with 720,090 controls based on gender, age, and year of index date; within this group, 1,796 patients had ≥2 PD diagnoses and ≥1 PD-related prescription. The primary outcome was incidence of PD among IBD patients with or without exposure to anti-TNFα therapy.

Results showed a 28% increased incidence of PD among IBD patients vs controls (adjusted incidence rate ratio 1.28, 95% CI: 1.14 to 1.44; P <.001). There was also a 78% reduction in the incidence rate of PD among IBD patients who were exposed to anti-TNFα therapy vs those who were not exposed (adjusted incidence rate ratio 0.22, 95% CI: 0.05 to 0.88; P =.03). 

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Based on these findings, the authors concluded, “Early exposure to anti-inflammatory anti-TNF therapy was associated with substantially reduced PD incidence. These findings support a role of systemic inflammation in the pathogenesis of both diseases.” 

More research is needed to determine whether anti-TNFα therapy will be effective in lowering PD risk when given to high-risk patients.

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