DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative
disorder of the brain which is the most common cause of dementia. It
is characterized by abnormal judgment, orientation, memory, emotions,
and thinking, most often affecting the elderly. There is no known
cure. There is no known prevention.
Researchers affiliated with the University of British Columbia published summary data in the journal Neurology (1996;47:425-432) which indicate that steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may have a protective effect against Alzheimer's's disease.
Patrick L. McGeer, M.D., Ph.D. and associates statistically evaluated 17 previous preliminary studies which, when pooled, suggested a significantly reduced risk of developing and progression of Alzheimer's's disease for persons taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
The authors, therefore, concluded that the anti-inflammatory drugs may delay the onset as well as slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. They also emphasized that further prospective clinical trials will be needed to confirm the implications of their findings.
The Medical Editors of MedicineNet agree that more work is necessary in this area before NSAIDs or steroids should be recommended for Alzheimer's disease. However, the results of this study should be acknowledged as a real first step toward the prevention of this devastating illness.
In a follow-up study (Neuropharmacology 1999 Jul;38(7):1017-25) researchers looking at nerve cell changes in the laboratory found that NSAIDs may have effects against the nerve toxic changes that could lead to Alzheimer's disease, while steroids had no such protective effect. More work using patient studies is still needed.