Asthma inhalers may protect against Parkinson’s disease

Asthma inhalers may protect patients from Parkinson’s disease, a major new study suggests.

Full of salbutamol, researchers found the medication halves the risk of developing the devastating neurological condition.

It is believed the drug, used in blue inhalers, stops abnormal clumps of a protein from accumulating in the brain – a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

The ‘landmark’ findings, made by Norwegian and US scientists, could open up new avenues for potential new treatments for the incurable disease.

Full of salbutamol, researchers found the medication halves the risk of developing the devastating neurological condition

Study author Professor Trond Riise said: ‘These medicines have never been studied in relation to Parkinson’s disease.

‘Our discoveries may be the start of a totally new possible treatment for this serious disease. We expect that clinical studies will follow these discoveries.’

How was the study carried out? 

University of Bergen and Harvard University experts tested promising compounds on lab-grown human neurons and animal ones.

Such nerve cells are destroyed in Parkinson’s disease, affecting how much dopamine is released – hampering movement.

This gradual loss of nerve cells leads to the shivering, stiff arms and legs and poor coordination that are typical symptoms of Parkinson’s.

More than 1,100 medications, molecules and vitamins were examined, according to the research published in the journal Science.


A pioneering new stem cell treatment with the ‘potential to cure Parkinson’s disease’ has been devised, it emerged earlier this week.

In trials on laboratory monkeys, Japanese scientists were able to restore nerve cells destroyed by a similar condition.

In humans, the disease causes a progressive loss of neurons, which release the vital nerve transmitter dopamine that controls movement.

Experts hailed the findings, released by Kyoto University, citing the breakthrough study to be ‘extremely promising’.

What did they find? 

They discovered that salbutamol, used in blue asthma inhalers, had positive effects on halting the progressive loss of neurons.

Results showed that the drug turned off the gene responsible for the build-up of alpha-synuclein protein in the brain.

In an attempt to seek if the effects existed in real populations, the experts examined a drug prescribing database in Norway.

More than 100 million prescriptions and their patients that were issued throughout the country in the last 11 years were examined.  

The researchers noted how around 0.1 per cent of those who never used the inhaler went onto develop Parkinson’s.

This was compared to less than 0.04 per cent in those who relied on salbutamol to keep their asthma symptoms at bay.

Dr Joseph Jankovic, a neurologist based at Baylor College of Medicine, told Science: ‘I’m sure it’s going to be a landmark paper.’

What else did they discover? 

In contrast to salbutamol, a common blood pressure drug was found to double the risk of developing the devastating disease. 

Propranolol, a form of beta blocker, increased alpha-synuclein production in cell experiments, the researchers found.

Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition. It is believed one million Americans also suffer. 

The new findings come after Dutch researchers in April showed using inhalers may make women obese – but not men. 

Filled with corticosteroids, the scientists believed there to be a link between breathing in the drugs and piling on the pounds.