Long term use of the painkiller ibuprofen when taken for more than five years has been found to decrease the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 40 percent. Published in the
Journal of Neurology, this large scale study demonstrated that the type of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) was important in risk reduction. They found some NSAIDs less effective than others. Indomethacine only reduced risk of Alzheimer's by 25 pecent and Pfizer's Celebrex and Celecox had no effect at all.
The newly published study looks at work carried out by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, Boston University School of Public Health and Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical center. It involved over 49,000 veterans aged 55 years and older.
The ibuprofen group of medicines include brand names such as Advil, Motrin and Nurofen. NSAIDs are one of the most widely used drugs for pain relief of non-serious arthritic conditions, for rheumatic or muscular pain, backache, neuralgia, dysmenorrhoea and headaches. They can help bring down body temperature during flu or other viral infections.
Previous studies have also suggested that people who take NSAIDs regularly are less likely to develop Alzheimer's, presumably because of their anti-inflammatory effect. Evidence has also surfaced that ibuprofen interferes with beta-amyloid aggregation. Beta-amyloid deposits, or plaques as they are described, are commonly seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease at post mortem.
Although an estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, people should not rush out and start taking ibuprofen as a preventative measure. Ibuprofen and many other NSAIDs medications have side effects, some of them life threatening. NSAIDs can also interact with other drugs causing major problems. Significant risks include ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, high blood pressure and kidney dysfunction. Some studies have also shown an increased risk of heart attack.
The authors of the research say that their findings are based on observational research. As such they cannot actually prove that NSAIDs alone specifically and directly cause a reduction in risk of Alzheimer's disease. Other factors, possibly yet to be determined, could have relevance.
"Protective effects of NSAIDs on the development of Alzheimer's disease" Vlad, Steven C., Miller, Donald R., Kowall, Neil W., Felson, David T., Neurology 2008 70: 1672-16. May 2008