While the dosage and duration are still unclear, an analysis of studies covering nearly 15,000 people has confirmed suggestions that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that greatly compromises a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Alzheimer’s affects the part of the brain that controls thought, memory and language. Few treatments exist for the disease, and recent efforts have focused on preventative measures. Some studies have suggested that NSAIDs might help prevent the disease.
In a meta-analysis, epidemiologist Mahyar Etminan from Montreal’s McGill University and colleagues analyzed data from observational studies published between 1996 and October 2002 that examined the role of NSAID use in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
The results are published in the July 19, 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal.
The study looked at NSAID use by adults 55 years of age and over.
Etminan and colleagues only extracted data from studies that had clearly stated diagnostic criteria for the outcome of Alzheimer’s disease, described exposure to NSAIDs and had a strong design in terms of large sample size and better control of confounding variables.
Their work covered a total of 14,600 participants.
Three separate analyses were carried out.
The researchers first selected studies that explored the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in users of all NSAIDs. Then they looked at the risk of Alzheimer’s specifically among aspirin users. Finally, they looked at the risk of Alzheimer’s according to the duration of use of NSAIDs.
Their findings show that long-term use of NSAIDs can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers hypothesize that NSAIDs must be used for a period of at least two years to obtain full benefits.
For aspirin specifically, they found that it does have some protective effect but the results are not significant. This may be, however, because the number of studies specifically evaluating the effects of aspirin is small.
Although the results are encouraging, researchers say that people should not take NSAIDs specifically to prevent Alzheimer’s disease yet because more research is needed on drug action and dosage.