Harvard Study – ibuprofen can reduce risk for Parkinson’s disease


Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter (OTC) pain relieving pill, which comes in category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAID. NSAIDs are usually indicated for the treatment of acute or chronic conditions, where pain and inflammation are present. A study suggests that regular use of ibuprofen can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.  Parkinson’s disease is mental disorder that is characterized by body tremors and movement problems, which is mostly found in elderly people.

What does ibuprofen study involve?
A study was lead by Xiang Gao, research scientist at Harvard School of Public Health and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Data regarding use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs pain relievers such as Advil or Mortin from 136,197 nurses and other health professionals was collected and analyzed.  The study is said to be one of the largest to investigate the possible benefits of ibuprofen on Parkinson’s and was published in the online edition of the journal Neurology.

What were results of ibuprofen Parkinson’s disease study?
The Harvard study revealed that after six years:

  • 291 participants were diagnosed with Parkinson’s
  • people who took ibuprofen regularly had a 38% lower risk of developing the disorder compared with those who didn’t use it.
  • Meta analysis of several studies on ibuprofen and other NSAIDs showed ibuprofen users had a 27% lower risk of developing the disease.

Why would ibuprofen be effective in reducing risk of Parkinson’s disease?
This is a new development in...

medical science and exact cause of effectiveness of ibuprofen is not known yet.  But, Alessandro Di Rocco, director of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Division at NYU’s Langone Medical Center revealed that “The idea that there is inflammation involved in the process of Parkinson’s is not new.” NSAIDs are effective against inflammation, and hence may help Parkinson’s patients.

Should I start taking ibuprofen to avert Parkinson’s disease?
James Bower, an associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn stated that “It’s too early for doctors to prescribe ibuprofen to prevent Parkinson’s, which affects about 1 million Americans, says the author of an accompanying editorial.” Although the study is said to be sound by Bower, but this is still early development and ibuprofen should not be taken regularly for Parkinson’s disease, without further evidence or direction from regulatory bodies.  Ibuprofen can have serious side effects to kidney, liver, stomach and urological complications.

The study is promising and a step towards helping Parkinson’s disease patients.  If you are suffering from Parkinson’s or have a family history of risk towards Parkinson’s disease, consult your doctor about using ibuprofen being aware of the known side effects.


One Response

  1. Medical Researcher says:

    The proper interpretation of data from published medical studies is so important. The headlines that are being thrown about today overinterpret the data of this study.

    What happened first here is that someone assembled a large population of older people about whom little was known, other than they agreed to participate in the study and report in reasonably faithfully. There was no randomization by characteristics at the start.

    What happened second here was that six years later, 291 of those folks had developed Parkinson’s Disease.

    What happened third was that someone looked at a whole host of health-related activities of the large population and found out that some of the ones who developed Parkinson’s Disease happened to have chosen to take ibuprofen. Why they were taking ibuprofen, noone knows. It turned out that more of the 291 had not chosen to take ibuprofen, than had chosen to take it. The key here is that, rather than being assigned to take ibuprofen, they chose to take it.

    If there is a headline here, it is “[Older] people who consume up to three tablets per day of ibuprofen (that’s alot!) develop less Parkinson’s Disease,” not “Harvard Study – ibuprofen can reduce risk for Parkinson’s disease.” Note the subtle differences in wording.

    First, it doesn’t matter where the study came from. What matters is that the media reports the study outcome faithfully. And, here they did not filter out a fatal flaw.

    Second, there is not even the smallest implication of causality in this research project. The design is wrong for making causal links. There is no randomization to drug treatment. Even the researcher would have pointed that out.

    Ibuprofen could easily have done nothing! It is just as likely that the people who chose to take ibuprofen had some other condition (that caused them to choose to take [alot of] ibuprofen). The other condition, by happenstance, protected them from Parkinson’s Disease. The people who did not choose to take ibuprofen did not have that same condition (and hence protection from Parkinson’s Disease). So many other factors could be involved.

    When someone does a randomized ibuprofen intervention study in people with Parkinson’s Disease, and it works, I’d get more interested.

    Filter better, health reporter!

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