The progression of Parkinson’s disease may be slowed and potentially warded off completely by taking ibuprofen at least twice a week, scientists have shown.
A large study led by researchers at Harvard school of public health in Boston, US showed that the anti-inflammatory can reduce the risk of the disease by as much as 38%.
Other common painkillers such as aspirin, naproxen and diclofenac did not have the same effect.
Ibuprofen may be unique in that it preserves the brain cells which Parkinson’s patients lose, helping to hold back the disease, but it is known that too much ibuprofen can damage the body, it can for example cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
Data from around 37,000 male health professionals and 99,000 female nurses was analysed over six years. The researchers diagnosed 156 men and 135 women with Parkinson’s.
Participants’ use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs was taken into account, along with other information such as age, smoking habits, and diet.
The results, published in the journal Neurology, showed that those who took ibuprofen two or more times a week were 38% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who did not. A follow-up analysis combining data from several other studies on the drug class indicated a 27% reduced risk associated with ibuprofen.
Lead researcher Xiang Gao said: “Our findings suggest that ibuprofen could be a potential neuroprotective agent against Parkinson’s disease, however the exact mechanism is unknown.
“Because the loss of brain cells that leads to Parkinson’s disease occurs over a decade or more, a possible explanation of our findings is that use of ibuprofen protects these cells.
Dr Gao added: “If so, use of ibuprofen could help slow the disease’s progression.”
- Gao X, et al. Use of ibuprofen and risk of Parkinson disease. Neurology 2011; Advance online publication
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