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Ibuprofen may lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease

March 04, 2011|By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times

Taking ibuprofen regularly may lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by about a third, perhaps by reducing the inflammation that is thought to contribute to the onset of the disease, Harvard University researchers reported this week. Surprisingly, however, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that also reduce inflammation have no effect on the disease, they reported online in the journal Neurology.

Dr. Alberto Ascherio and Dr. Xiang Gao of Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and their colleagues studied 98,892 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 37,305 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, two well-established, ongoing programs. After six years of study, 291 participants in the study had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. Those who took ibuprofen at least two times a week had a 38% lower risk of developing the disease than those who did not, while those who took other NSAIDs had a normal risk. When the researchers combined these results with those obtained in other studies, they found taking ibuprofen produced a 27% reduction in risk of developing the disease.

The authors speculate that ibuprofen may have this effect because it targets a receptor in the brain called the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor y (PPARy). Studies in animals have suggested this mechanism, Gao said. Other NSAIDs do not target this receptor.

The authors do not recommend that people begin taking the drug regularly in an effort to stave off Parkinson's or to treat it  because ibuprofen can itself produce unwanted side effects, including stomach bleeding. It would seem to be of great interest, however, to test the drug, or others targeted against PPARy, in people who are known to be at high risk of developing Parkinson's or who have already developed the disease.

The study was funded by the National  Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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