Ibuprofen may lower risk of Parkinson's disease

March 2, 2011, Harvard School of Public Health

A new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers shows that adults who regularly take ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), have about one-third less risk of developing Parkinson's disease than non-users.

"There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, so the possibility that ibuprofen, an existing and relatively non-toxic drug, could help protect against the disease is captivating," said senior author Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at HSPH.

The study will be published online March 2, 2011, in Neurology and is scheduled to appear in the March 8, 2011, print issue.

Parkinson's disease, a progressive nervous disease occurring generally after age 50, affects at least half a million Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. About 50,000 new cases are reported each year, with the number expected to increase as the U.S. population ages. It is hypothesized that ibuprofen may reduce inflammation in the brain that may contribute to the disease.

Prior studies showed a reduced Parkinson's disease risk among NSAIDS users, but most did not differentiate between ibuprofen and other non-aspirin NSAIDs.

In the new study, Ascherio, lead author Xiang Gao, research scientist at HSPH and associate epidemiologist in the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 99,000 women enrolled in the Brigham and Women's Hospital-based Nurses' Health Study and over 37,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The researchers identified 291 cases (156 men and 135 women) of Parkinson's disease during their six-year follow-up study (1998-2004 in women; 2000-2006 in men). Based on questionnaires, the researchers analyzed the patients' use of ibuprofen (e.g. Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), aspirin or aspirin-containing products, other anti-inflammatory pain relievers (e.g., Aleve, Naprosyn), and acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol). (Although not an NSAID, acetaminophen was included because it's similarly used to treat pain.) Age, smoking, diet, caffeine, and other variables also were considered.

"We observed that men and women who used ibuprofen two or more times per week were about 38% less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who regularly used aspirin, acetaminophen, or other NSAIDs," Gao said. "Our findings suggest that ibuprofen could be a potential neuroprotective agent against Parkinson's disease, however, the exact mechanism is unknown."

These findings raise hope that a readily available, inexpensive drug could help to treat Parkinson's disease. "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. If so, use of ibuprofen could help slow the disease's progression," Gao said.

The findings do not mean that people who already have Parkinson's disease should begin taking ibuprofen, Ascherio added. "Although generally perceived as safe, ibuprofen can have side effects, such as increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Whether this risk is compensated by a slowing of the disease progression should be investigated under rigorous supervision in a randomized clinical trial," he said.

More information: "Use of Ibuprofen and Risk of Parkinson's Disease," Xiang Gao, Honglei Chen, Michael A. Schwarzschild, and Alberto Ascherio. Neurology, March 8, 2011. Online March 2, 2011.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Do you see what I see? Researchers harness brain waves to reconstruct images of what we perceive

February 22, 2018
A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough can, for the first time, reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity gathered by EEG.

Neuroscientists discover a brain signal that indicates whether speech has been understood

February 22, 2018
Neuroscientists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Rochester have identified a specific brain signal associated with the conversion of speech into understanding. The signal is present when the listener has ...

Study in mice suggests personalized stem cell treatment may offer relief for multiple sclerosis

February 22, 2018
Scientists have shown in mice that skin cells re-programmed into brain stem cells, transplanted into the central nervous system, help reduce inflammation and may be able to help repair damage caused by multiple sclerosis ...

Superagers' youthful brains offer clues to keeping sharp

February 22, 2018
It's pretty extraordinary for people in their 80s and 90s to keep the same sharp memory as someone several decades younger, and now scientists are peeking into the brains of these "superagers" to uncover their secret.

Biomarker, clues to possible therapy found in novel childhood neurogenetic disease

February 22, 2018
Researchers studying a rare genetic disorder that causes severe, progressive neurological problems in childhood have discovered insights into biological mechanisms that drive the disease, along with early clues that an amino ...

A look at the space between mouse brain cells

February 22, 2018
Between the brain's neurons and glial cells is a critical but understudied structure that's been called neuroscience's final frontier: the extracellular space. With a new imaging paradigm, scientists can now see into and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.