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Growing Evidence: Commonly Used Medicines May Delay or Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

  [ 179 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • September 24, 2002

ST. PAUL, MN – Have researchers found yet another reason to take an aspirin a day? Aspirin has been found to benefit cardiac patients. Now a new study reported in the current issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, presents additional evidence that regular use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the incidence of dementia in elderly people, but only when taken for more than two years.

Researchers assessed 5,092 elderly (aged 65+) residents of Cache County, Utah, for dementia, while noting their current and former use of NSAIDs, aspirin compounds or histamine H2 receptor antagonists (including cimetidine, ranitidine, famitidine and nizatidine). Three years later they obtained interval medication histories and identified 104 participants with Alzheimer's disease among the 3,227 living participants.

"Our results suggest that long-term NSAID use may reduce the risk of AD, provided the use occurs well before the onset of dementia," said John Breitner, MD, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA, and one of 22 investigators who conducted the study. Breitner added that recent use of NSAIDs and aspirin appears to offer little protection.

Those who started taking NSAIDs near the start of the study or later appeared to receive little protection from Alzheimer's disease. But earlier long term use (more than two years) was associated with an incidence rate that was only 45 percent of the rate seen in non-users. There was a trend toward even greater risk reduction among those with the longest history of taking the medications. Results were similar for regular use of aspirin, but not for any other medicines examined.

Medicines included in the study were aspirin compounds, non-aspirin NSAIDs (including ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, nabumetone, sulindac, and oxaprozin), and histamine H2 receptor antagonists. Other medicines were included as controls and, as expected, did not have any effect on the risk of Alzheimer's disease. These were pain relievers such as acetaminophen, allopurinol, propoxyphene and other opoids; antacids and antiflatulants; and other stomach remedies.

Current trials of NSAIDs for primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease probably won't show effects with treatment until participants have been followed for several years, according to Breitner.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its website at

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