Science + Technology

Over-the-counter pain meds may reduce risk of Parkinson's disease

Some users reduced their risk by as much as 60 percent, study shows

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Over-the-counter pain medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs — including aspirin and ibuprofen — may sharply reduce a person's risk of Parkinson's disease, according to a new UCLA study.
 
Reporting in the Nov. 6 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Neurology, Dr. Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health, and Angelika D. Wahner, a UCLA assistant researcher in epidemiology, found that regular users of non-aspirin NSAID drugs reduced their risk of Parkinson's by as much as 60 percent compared with non-regular users and nonusers. Women who were regular users of aspirin reduced their risk by 40 percent.
 
The study involved 579 men and women, half of whom had Parkinson's disease. The participants were asked if they had taken aspirin and if they had taken non-aspirin NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, once a week or more at any point in their life for at least a month.
 
Participants were considered regular users of aspirin or non-aspirin NSAIDs if they took two or more pills a week for at least one month. Non-regular users were those who took fewer pills.
 
"Our findings suggest NSAIDs are protective against Parkinson's disease, with a particularly strong protective effect among regular users of non-aspirin NSAIDs, especially those who reported two or more years of use," Wahner said. "Interestingly, aspirin only benefited women. It may be that men are taking lower doses of aspirin for heart problems, while women may be using higher doses for arthritis or headaches.
 
"Given these results and the growing burden of Parkinson's disease as people age, there's a pressing need for further studies explaining why these drugs may play a protective role," she said.
"This is an encouraging finding in the fight against Parkinson's," Ritz said. "It's possible the anti-inflammatory agent in NSAIDs may contribute to the observed protective effect of the drugs, but the exact mechanism isn't clear and further research is needed."
 
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the American Parkinson Disease Association. Other study authors included Dr. Jeff M. Bronstein and Dr. Yvette M. Bordelon, both of UCLA.
 
The UCLA School of Public Health is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals, translating research into policy and practice, and serving local, national and international communities. For more information, visit www.ph.ucla.edu.
 
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