Considering that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and diabetes mellitus share pathophysiological features and AD remains with no cure, antidiabetic drugs like intranasal insulin, glitazones, metformin, and liraglutide are being tested as a potential treatment.
The aim of this systematic review was to assess the efficacy of antidiabetic drugs in patients with AD, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or subjective cognitive complaints (SCCs). Cognition was studied as the primary outcome and modulation of AD biomarkers, and imaging was also assessed as a secondary outcome.
We conducted a search in the electronic databases PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus seeking clinical trials evaluating the effect on cognition of antidiabetic drugs in patients with AD, MCI, or SCCs.
A total of 23 articles were found eligible. Intranasal regular insulin improved verbal memory in most studies, especially in apoE4- patients, but results in other cognitive domains were unclear. Detemir improved cognition after 2 months of treatment, but it did not after 4 months. Pioglitazone improved cognition in diabetic patients with AD or MCI in 3 clinical trials, but it is controversial as 2 other studies did not show effect. Metformin and liraglutide showed promising results, but further research is needed as just 2 clinical trials involved each of these drugs. Almost all drugs tested were shown to modulate AD biomarkers and imaging.
Intranasal insulin, pioglitazone, metformin, and liraglutide are promising drugs that could be useful in the treatment of AD. However, many questions remain to be answered in future studies, so no particular antidiabetic drug can currently be recommended to treat AD.

© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.