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Anti-Inflammatories Ward Off Parkinsonís - Study

Regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs appears to lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, perhaps by protecting brain cells that would otherwise die, researchers said on Monday.

The risk of Parkinson's was reduced by about 45 percent among adults who regularly took drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) compared to non-users, the Harvard School of Public Health study said.

These drugs include ibuprofen, indomethacin and naproxen -- which can carry their own risks from long-term use such as liver damage. Those who took two or more aspirin daily also got the protective effect from Parkinson's, which afflicts an estimated 1.5 million Americans, mostly older than 50.

"The results of postmortem studies suggest that inflammation is involved in the development of Parkinson's disease and there is experimental evidence that NSAIDs are protective for the cells that are selectively destroyed," said study author Dr. Honglei Chen of Harvard.

It was not known if taking NSAIDs can benefit people who already have Parkinson's, but the drugs have previously been found to have a protective benefit against Alzheimer's disease, Chen said. The causes of the two neurological diseases, which commonly strike the elderly, are unknown.

The study, which was published in The Archives of Neurology journal, employed data from two studies involving health workers -- a 14-year study of 44,000 men ending in 1990, and an 18-year nurses study with 98,000 women ending in 1998.

Six percent of the men and 4 percent of the women regularly used NSAIDs. A total of 415 cases of Parkinson's disease were diagnosed.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Mya Schiess of the University of Texas suggested that refinements in the study's findings may lead to possible treatments of Parkinson's.


The findings of the group of researchers that are the subject of this Reuters news dispatch are obviously of importance to individuals who consider themselves at risk of Parkinsonís.

Before leaping at the chance to start taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, however, an individual should consider the following factors:

  • The non-aspirin drugs found to have a significant association with lower risks of PD include:
    • ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin and Advil)
    • indomethacin (Indocin)
    • naproxen (Naprosyn)
    • diflunisal (Dolobid)
  • The list of painkillers does not include acetaminophen (Tylenol). The report in the Archives of Neurology states: ďNo significant association was found between acetaminophen use and the risk of PDÖ..Ē
  • Aspirin was associated with a lower risk of PD, but only if taken at a rate of two or more aspirins a day.

As the report points out, the present evidence is too preliminary to warrant recommending painkillers to prevent Parkinsonís. Because the NSAIDS (including aspirin) can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and other serious problems, more research is needed to determine if any anti-Parkinsonís effects they may provide outweigh the risks. A patient with PD should not begin taking these medicines without consulting first with his or her doctor.

Source Date: Aug 20 2003
Source Publication: Reuters