Ibuprofen Linked to Reduced Alzheimer's Risk
Monday, May 5, 2008; 12:00 AM
MONDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- People who use the painkiller ibuprofen regularly for five years may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as they age, a new study suggests.
And more generally, people using the class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may have a decreased risk for Alzheimer's as well, although the link here is not as clear-cut as it is for ibuprofen.
But the findings don't put to rest a debate that has long simmered about the role of NSAIDs in the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer's, given the gastrointestinal side effects associated with long-term use of this class of painkillers.
"This discussion has been going on for a while," said William Thies, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association. "This trial is big enough and the results are good enough that it may reopen the debate -- that we should do a prevention study with these medications."
But at this point, the conclusions aren't firm enough to start taking ibuprofen or any other NSAID to help ward off dementia, he said.
"Probably people shouldn't be taking these medications just to prevent Alzheimer's. The effect is too uncertain and the side effects are pretty well known," Thies said. "For those people who won't listen to this advice, they should be really careful to fill in their physician so he can track it with other medications."
Dr. Steven Vlad, lead author of the study and a fellow in rheumatology at Boston University School of Medicine, agreed, saying: "The big issue is that ibuprofen looks like it prevents Alzheimer's but all these drugs have well-known side effects and significant side effects, so the risk-benefit ratio is not clear at this point. Patients shouldn't go on ibuprofen to prevent Alzheimer's."
The findings are published in the May 6 issue ofNeurology.
While so-called epidemiological studies have indicated some dementia prevention benefit with NSAIDs and ibuprofen, treatment trials have shown no benefits.
The new study involved five years of data on 50,000 U.S. veterans aged 55 and older who had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. A control group included almost 200,000 veterans without an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
Overall, people who used NSAIDs long-term were at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's -- about 25 percent lower. But the benefit was more pronounced with specific drugs.
The risk of developing Alzheimer's decreased the longer a person used ibuprofen, with those using the drug for five years more than 40 percent less likely to develop this dementia.