Alzheimer Pills: Green is the Color of Hope

25. August 2008

The threatening sword of Damocles in terms of dementia and Alzheimer shows effects. Our government decrees better nursing standards. Research gets into top gear. The publications of all kinds of studies go head over heels. And time and again, Ibuprofen pops up in professional press like a ghost. The idea of working miracles with known substances is tempting. But caution should be exercised.

Prevention of amyloid clots

Morbus Alzheimer is the most frequent form of dementia. The physician Alois Alzheimer was the first to describe the symptoms and to introduce those 1906 during a symposium in Tuebingen/Germany. Primarily older people are threatened by this neurodegenerative disease. Statistically the risk to get Alzheimer is the highest in the age between 75 and 85. Since the population in the Western industrial nations is increasingly aging, the number of Alzheimer patients is skyrocketing, in 2007 29 million people worldwide. According to computer calculations based on population prognoses, it could be more than 100 million Alzheimer patients until 2050. Not taken into consideration here are any potential preventive or healing therapies which might be available by then. Hundreds of research departments are frantically working on the issue, as the more than 2,100 English publications during the past 12 months suggest. To the fore is the development of drugs stopping the so-called beta-amyloid to create clots respectively those to eliminate existing amyloid clots in the brain. Here antiphlogistic painkillers as secretase inhibitors play a relevant role among others.

Long-term use of Ibuprofen could reduce the Alzheimer risk

Earlier studies ascertained again and again, that rheumatism patients have a lower Alzheimer risk. Researcher traced the result back to the treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAR), in particular Ibuprofen. However, the preliminary findings were contradictory which frequently lead to doubting the suitability of this type of studies as a serious basis for therapeutic measures. Dr. Steven Vlad and his team made the latest and largest US-study at the Boston University. It is based on data of about 50,000 veterans with Alzheimer and a control group of 200,000 veterans showing no signs of dementia. The assessment showed that of all persons the ones taking Ibuprofen for a period of more than 5 years developed 40% less Alzheimer than the others.

Studies no evidence for protective effect

The Boston studies also show that there is a connection between the duration of use and the reduced dementia risk. The best results were achieved with Ibuprofen. "This leads us to presume that the effect applies only for certain NSARs", says Vlad. "One of the reasons why ibuprofen showed such good results could be the fact that it is by far one of the most widely used painkillers", explains the researcher. A press release of the American Academy of Neurology points out, that observational studies of this nature cannot prove whether NSARs have a protective effect. Caution is yet advised because of the side effects such as nausea, dizziness or constipation. Some of the clinical studies were discontinued because the risk for infarction was too high.
Vlad: "All NSAIDs have well known side-effects that can be very serious and we still need trials to make sure the risks and benefits are very clean." The Alzheimer’s Research Trust decided that the results were not a "wonder solution" yet but pointed the right direction for future researches. BBC News commented the result of the Bostonians ironically with the hint that in an other study a connection between short legs and short arms and an increased dementia prevalence was declared a possibility.

Hope lives on

Almost fresh from the press is a press release of the US pharmaceuticals manufacturer Myriad Genetics. Their test results positive so far with Flurizan which is related to the painkiller Ibuprofen, had raised big hopes worldwide. Now they announce that the clinical phase III study has not shown any statistically relevant results thus causing the company to discontinue the further development. Flurizan was to be marketed in 2009. According to the assessments of the German fundamental research this would not necessarily mean that NSARs are not functioning in principle. The pharmaceutical companies seem to approach those studies a bit dewy-eyed. The general evaluation of the opportunities to develop a new generation of drugs based on NSAR derivates is very positive.

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