Study: Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers May Cut Risk for Parkinson's

Common over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce a person's risk of getting Parkinson's disease, according to a new study published in the current issue of of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Given our results and the growing burden of Parkinson’s disease as people age, there’s a pressing need for further studies explaining why these drugs may play a protective role,” said study author Dr. Angelika D. Wahner, with the UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles, in a new release.

The study involved nearly 600 men and women, half of whom had Parkinson's disease. The group was asked if they had taken aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, once a week or more at any point in their life for at least a month.

The study found regular users of such drugs reduced their risk of Parkinson’s disease by as much as 60 percent compared to non-regular users and non-users. Women who were regular users of aspirin reduced their risk of Parkinson’s disease by 40 percent, especially among those who regularly used aspirin for more than two years.

“Our findings suggest NSAIDs are protective against Parkinson’s disease, with a particularly strong protective effect among regular users of non-aspirin NSAIDs, especially those who reported two or more years of use,” said Wahner. “Interestingly, aspirin only benefited women. It may be that men are taking lower doses of aspirin for heart problems, while women may be using higher doses for arthritis or headaches.”

Although the findings are promising, researchers agree more studies need to be done.

“It’s possible the anti-inflammatory agent in NSAIDs may contribute to the observed protective effect of the drugs, but the exact mechanism isn’t clear and further research is needed,” said Dr. Beate Ritz, the study’s lead investigator and professor of epidemiology at UCLA School of Public Health.