New research suggests people who take the commonly used painkiller ‘ibuprofen’ on a regular basis may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
In a study of over 135,000 men and women US researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who took ibuprofen two or three times a week reduced their risk of Parkinson’s disease by more than a third compared to those who regularly used aspirin, acetaminophen, or other NSAIDs over the long-term to help manage painful conditions such as arthritis.
For some time now scientists have suspected that inflammation plays a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease and that anti-inflammatory drugs might be of benefit but it was unclear which drugs in the family of ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ (NSAIDs) conferred benefit.
This new study published in Neurology suggests it is ibuprofen alone.
Ibuprofen is not without side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, and it is too early to say whether the benefits of taking the drug outweigh the risks. We also do not know which groups of people would benefit most, at what point in their lives, and what other factors are at play.
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 offers hope for patients.
Importantly, these findings offer research opportunities to explore the role of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs in the prevention and treatment of Parkinson’s disease but also in a host of other incurable brain diseases such as progressive supranuclear palsy, cortico-basal degeneration, multiple system atrophy and the dementias, where the body’s inflammatory response may also be implicated in the death of nerve cells in the brain.