A new study finds that long-term use of a common pain reliever can reduce the risk of the degenerative brain disease Alzheimers. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine analyzed veterans' pharmacy records for use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs.

Steven Vlad is lead author of the study, which compared 50,000 veterans who developed Alzheimers with 200,000 veterans who did not. "We found about a 25 percent reduction in the incidence of Alzheimers disease for NSAIDS as a whole, if you take an NSAID for over about five years."

Vlad says they saw a dramatic effect from long-term use of Ibuprofen, a non-prescription drug often recommended for easing the aches and pains of arthritis. "Veterans who had taken ibuprofen for over five years had a 40 percent reduction in the incidence of Alzheimers compared to their matched controls."

Vlad says this is the first time this effect has been seen in humans. However, other NSAIDs showed no effect. Vlad advises against taking any NSAID as a preventative measure for Alzheimers. "They have side effects that include ulcers, GI [gastrointestinal] bleeding, problems with your kidneys." He adds, "The risk-to-benefit ratio isn't completely clear when we look at all the side effects compared to all the beneficial effects."

Vlad hopes the study spurs research into the potential of anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the risk of Alzheimers, a disease caused by inflammation in the brain. "For instance, ibuprofen has never been studied. And maybe that is a drug that should be studied because it is more likely to have an effect than some of the other ones."

The work is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.