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Pain Relievers May Prevent Parkinson's

45% Lower Parkinson's Risk Seen in Anti-inflammatory Drug Users
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 18, 2003 -- Regular use of common pain relievers lowers a person's risk of Parkinson's disease, a new study says. Research continues to build for a protective effect of anti-inflammatory drugs against brain diseases.

The findings come from data collected in two large studies of more than 44,000 men and nearly 100,000 women. The men were 40 to75 years old, and the women were 30 to 55 years old. All were healthy when the study started. The Harvard University report appears in the August issue of Archives of Neurology.

Overall, 415 study participants -- 236 men and 179 women -- developed Parkinson's disease during the study. Parkinson's risk was 45% lower among those who took a common pain reliever known as an anti-inflammatory drug two or more times a week. Examples of anti-inflammatory drugs are ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not an anti-inflammatory drug.

Aspirin is also an anti-inflammatory drug. Study participants who took at least two adult-strength (325 mg) aspirin two or more times a week also showed a lower risk of Parkinson's disease. This was not a significant finding, but since aspirin works much like other anti-inflammatory drugs, researchers say it's probably not a chance finding.

Earlier studies suggest that the newest type of anti-inflammatory drugs called Cox-2 inhibitors -- including Bextra, Celebrex, and Vioxx -- also lowers Parkinson's risk.

There's good reason to think anti-inflammatory drugs can lower the risk of Parkinson's disease. More and more researchers suspect Parkinson's disease results from ongoing inflammation of the brain.

Infection Linked to Parkinson's

Inflammation is the body's most common response to infection or injury. Fluids seep into the affected area, making it red and swollen. This attracts immune cells that set off a barrage of chemical signals -- including pain signals.

Alzheimer's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease also involve brain inflammation. Previous studies have suggested that anti-inflammatory drugs help prevent these diseases, too.

The results from human studies support the brain-protecting effects of anti-inflammatory drugs, write Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues. The results are also consistent with previous studies suggesting a protective effect of anti-inflammatory drugs on the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

In an editorial accompanying the Chen study, University of Texas-Houston researcher Mya Schiess, MD, writes that the study may underestimate the protective effect of anti-inflammatory drugs. Schiess notes that Parkinson's disease is much more common in people more than 75 years old -- an age group not included in the Chen team's data.

"Benefits of even greater magnitude might be demonstrable if this intervention were applied to the same population as it aged beyond 75 years," Schiess writes.

SOURCE: Archives of Neurology, August 2003.

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