Common painkillers may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, and the longer they are taken the greater the benefit, scientists said on Friday. They reviewed 15 studies that examined the effect of painkillers, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and found people who take them are less likely to develop the illness, which is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly. "We have analyzed the existing data and based on our analysis we've shown that NSAIDs may have a preventive effect," said Dr. Mahyar Etminan, of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Canada.
"But before we can advocate the regular use of these drugs to prevent Alzheimer's disease we need to wait for the results of ongoing trials looking specifically at this issue," he added in an interview.
NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, are drugs that relieve pain by blocking the action of enzymes called cyclooxygenases (COX), which control inflammatory responses. Although they are effective against pain, the drugs can cause ulcers and dangerous stomach bleeding. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida have also showed that some NSAIDs may work against Alzheimer's by decreasing amounts of a protein called amyloid-beta 42 (AB42).
The protein is involved in the formation of harmful brain plaques that are characteristic of the degenerative brain disease that afflicts millions of people worldwide. Etminan stressed that although the results are encouraging and could provide clues for the development of new drugs for Alzheimer's disease, people should not take an NSAID to prevent the illness because more research is needed.