Like Cox-2 inhibitors, over-the-counter pain medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have become suspects in increasing risks of heart attacks and strokes.

But researchers now think NSAIDs may have a beneficial effect too, reducing a persons risk of Parkinsons disease.

The findings are in a study published in the November 6, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Given our results and the growing burden of Parkinsons disease as people age, theres a pressing need for further studies explaining why these drugs may play a protective role, said study author Angelika D. Wahner, PhD, with the UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles.

The study involved 579 men and women, half of whom had Parkinsons disease. The participants were asked if they had taken aspirin and if they had taken non-aspirin NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, once a week or more at any point in their life for at least a month.

Participants were considered regular users of aspirin or non-aspirin NSAIDs if they took two or more pills a week for at least one month. Non-regular users were those who took fewer pills.

The study found regular users of non-aspirin NSAIDs reduced their risk of Parkinsons 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 Parkinsons disease by 40 percent, especially among those who regularly used aspirin for more than two years.

Our findings suggest NSAIDs are protective against Parkinsons 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.

Its possible the anti-inflammatory agent in NSAIDs may contribute to the observed protective effect of the drugs, but the exact mechanism isnt clear and further research is needed, said the studys principal investigator Beate Ritz, MD, PhD, with UCLA School of Public Health.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the American Parkinson Disease Association.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 20,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Parkinsons disease, ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease), dementia, West Nile virus, and ataxia.