How do Pain Medications Relate to Alzheimers?

Alzheimers disease risk was lower for some people who took NSAIDs study finds

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In a large Canadian study, researchers found that people who took certain types of pain medications were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, but it is not clear why.

Many Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available over the counter, such as ibuprofen, Tylenol, and naproxen, and as prescriptions. 

They are commonly used for pain relief. Research showed that some people who took these medications on a regular basis had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

"Talk to your doctor before starting any medication."

Sharlene Cote, MD with Danielle Laurin, PhD, of the University of Quebec, and colleagues looked at the records of 5,276 people in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA).

The CSHA is a 10 year longitudinal study in people aged 65 and older with dementia. The CSHA collects information about patients’ medical history and cognitive abilities.

The cognitive skills of people in the CSHA were measured at the time of enrollment, at a first follow-up 5 years later, and again at 10 years after the initial interview. Patients were also asked about the medications they were taking, both prescription and over-the-counter.

They found that people who reported current or regular use of NSAIDs were about 30 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease. It is unclear why NSAIDs might be related to lower rates of Alzheimer's Disease.

dailyRx spoke with Dr. Cote, the geriatrician on the study. She said, “What this tells us, in my opinion, is that there is a mechanism of action to elucidate here, and that this could lead us to developing new drugs that may actually modify AD pathology instead of simply helping its symptoms – the only thing we have to offer to our affected patients so far.”

She went on to say, “The risk reduction is at best around 30%, so it certainly does not prevent all cases.“

Dr. Cote also noted that NSAIDs carry some risks and can interact with other medications.

She added, “So I would like to emphasize that no one should start taking these drugs on a regular basis without consulting with their physician first.”

Because this study looked back to compare the rates of Alzheimer's Disease and the use of NSAIDs, it is not clear if the medication is the cause of the lowered risk.

This study was published in the May 2012 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia.  No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 11, 2012
Last Updated:
July 10, 2012