Health News You Can Use: Cheap Alzheimer’s Prevention?

Posted on November 29, 2013


Check out this article in the Vancouver Sun by Dr. Patrick McGeer:  “Government should support clinical trials to learn if ibuprofen can prevent Alzheimer’s.”  The thrust:  the Kinsmen Laboratory of Neurological Research at the University of British Columbia — of which Dr. McGeer is the director — has observed that a) the beta-amyloid brain plaques that characterize Alzheimer’s are sites of neurological inflammation; and b) rheumatoid arthritis patients are six times less likely than the general population to develop Alzheimer’s.  Why?  The theory is that they are protected by the high doses of anti-inflammatories that they take, usually starting at an age before Alzheimer’s  would have started to develop.  In essence, the rheumatoid arthritis patients may be nipping Alzheimer’s in the bud by reducing inflammation in the brain, thus preventing the formation of the characteristic plaques.  Interesting!

It’s just Dr. McGeer’s opinion and educated guess, mind, but there may be something to it.  Recall that Alzheimer’s occurs at a much lower rate in some parts of India than elsewhere in the world, and one suspected reason – supported by formal studies – is the high consumption of turmeric, an anti-inflammatory spice found in curry.

Hm.  Anti-inflammatory food, low Alzheimer’s rate… anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis, low Alzheimer’s rate… shouldn’t this be enough to provoke some serious interest?  I mean – Alzheimer’s is devastating, expensive, emotionally draining, and ultimately fatal.  Here’s some circumstantial evidence that a cheap-over-the-counter NSAID might prevent or at least greatly mitigate this horrible disease, and yet, what have we heard about it?

Not much!

As Dr. McGeer points out, Big Pharma has nothing to gain by sponsoring studies to promote the use of cheap, widely available OTC drugs.  So if there are any studies to be done on this, it will be up to governments to fund them.

I’m not always a big fan of more government spending, but this is one case in which the cost of such a study would be a solid investment with a huge return:  Alzheimer’s will cost the US $203 billion this year, and those costs are only going up and up:  by 2050, the disease will cost our society  $1.2 trillion annually  (in current dollars).  That’s nearly a six-fold increase.

But the epidemiological study of the rheumatoid arthritis patients is highly suggestive, isn’t it?  They had a six-fold smaller risk of developing the disease than did the general population.  And that’s apparently just as a by-product of taking NSAIDs for arthritis.  What more could be achieved with proper studies to determine optimal preventive doses for those at risk of Alzheimer’s?

Please have a look at Dr. McGeer’s article at the Vancouver Sun.  Show it to friends and family.  Maybe even show it to your doctor and have a discussion.  When something this cheap and easily available might be the key to preventing a horrible and widely suffered scourge, it is positively immoral to keep that information bottled up and unexplored.