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Anti-Inflamatory Drugs Don't Help Against Alzheimer's


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Susan Wiersema's mother has Alzheimer's disease. She still recognizes her daughter but can't live on her own.

Susan Wierseman/ Mother has Alzheimer's: "THE ASSISTANCE SHE NEEDED AND THAT MOVED HER HERE WAS SOMEONE TO COOK, CLEAN, SHOP, SERVE MEALS."

Scientists have long known that inflammation plays a major role in Alzheimer's disease, triggering deposits of amyloid plaque in the brain.

Dr. Paul Aisen/ Georgetown Univ. Medical Ctr.: "THAT LEADS TO THE IDEA THAT ANTI-INFLAMMATORY TREATMENT CAN, BY SUPPRESSING THAT INFLAMMATION, HELP PROTECT BRAIN CELLS AGAINST DAMAGE THAT OCCURS IN THE DISEASE."

And slow the progression of dementia.

Not so, according to a major study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers compared two anti-inflammatory drugs-- Vioxx and Aleve-- to a placebo dummy pill in 351 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

At the end of one year there was no difference between the groups. Patients treated with either medication were no better off than those taking the placebo.

"THE RESULTS WERE DISCOURAGING. THEY DO NOT SUPPORT THE IDEA THAT ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS OF THIS TYPE IN FACT HAVE A FAVORABLE INFLUENCE ON THE DISEASE."

While the drugs didn't help those who already have the disease, experts haven't ruled out the possibility these anti-inflammatory medications might prevent the disease in the first place. That study is still underway.

And that's good news considering one of the biggest risk factors for developing Alzheimer's is aging. it's estimated that as many as 50-percent of all people over 85 have the disease.

The study raises important questions.

It's possible that one year of treatment isn't enough. Maybe it takes two years to see an effect.

Or is it a case of too little, too late, that the disease is too far advanced for anti-inflammatory drugs to make a difference?

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