Previous studies have reported that pain relievers such as the anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This study by American researchers, however, shows a different story.
The researchers looked at 2,736 members of Group Health, an integrated healthcare delivery system, who did not have any form of dementia when they were enrolled in the study. The average age of the study group was 75 years. The researchers then tracked these patient for 12 years, monitored their use of NSAIDs, both as prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and their likelihood of developing dementia especially Alzheimer’s disease.
In the study group, 351 participants had a history of heavy NSAID use at the start of the study. Over the follow up period, another 107 participants became heavy NSAID users. “Heavy use was defined as having prescriptions for NSAIDs at least 68 percent of the time in two years.”
The results of the monitoring for dementia gave the following results:
- 476 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease or dementia during the study period.
- Heavy NSAID users were 66% more likely to develop dementia compared to those who use little or no NSAID.
According to study author Dr. Eric B. Larson, executive director of Group Health Center for Health Studies.
“Although we hoped to find a protective effect, there was none. Thus, for this age group, there’s no basis for taking NSAIDs to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Our study in this quite elderly population showed more risk of dementia with NSAIDs, especially when used heavily.”
The study results indicate a need to re-evaluate earlier research findings that suggested that NSAID use can delay or even prevent onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
There were, of course, key differences between previous studies and this study. For one thing, the study participants in this study are on average older. This could have a big influence on the results considering that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are basically an elderly disease, even though there are cases of early onset.
NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen are available over-the-counter are popularly used as anti-fever drugs and pain relievers. In the older population, NSAIDs, marketed in the US as Advil, Motrin and Aleve, are used as pain relievers especially among those who suffer from arthritis. Recently, the US FDA has issued new labelling requirements for OTC drugs including NSAIDs, which should provide warnings about safety, including interaction between NSAIDs and alcohol.
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