Leila Parand, MD: Researchers keep discovering new uses for Ozempic. Proving it works isn’t easy.

Leila Parand, MD

"It took 12 years for Allison Tuckman to get an accurate diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome, then another 10 to find a treatment to help keep her most severe symptoms in check. Now that she’s finally found a drug that works, the 44-year-old from Manalapan, New Jersey, says there’s no going back. “I’ll be taking it ‘till the end of time,” she said.

That medication happens to be semaglutide, the same drug in high demand largely for its effects on weight loss. It’s approved under the name Ozempic for Type 2 diabetes and under the name Wegovy for weight loss. Semaglutide falls into a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists, which also includes the diabetes drugs Mounjaro and Victoza, among others.

Since the drugs flooded the scene, there have been reports of other potential uses for them, to treat conditions ranging from PCOS to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, addiction, alcohol use disorder, liver disease and possibly cancer.

But proving they work for each individual condition means spending years, and a tremendous amount of resources, to conduct meticulous laboratory research and large clinical trials. It also requires access to a reliable supply of these drugs, which is far from a given amid widespread shortages.


According to Dr. Leila Parand, a neurologist who treats patients with Alzheimer’s at UCLA Health, past research studies suggested these drugs can help prevent damage in brain blood vessels that can lead to Alzheimer’s. 

“They help preserve nerve cells and expand the growth of branches of nerve cells and help with inflammation,” Parand said. If they work, the GLP-1 drugs would be a welcome addition to the limited treatment options for Alzheimer’s.

Parand’s medical center at UCLA is one of several hundred locations where patients can enroll in one of the Novo Nordisk clinical trials of semaglutide for early Alzheimer’s. Earlier this month, she had to close enrollment early since the trial filled up ahead of schedule. According to Parand, this, too, is thanks to the skyrocketing interest in these drugs, which led many people with early Alzheimer’s to learn about the trial."

Read more at NBC News.