Most of us know that there’s very little similarity between arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, other than the fact that they both start with the letter ‘a’.
The drugs developed to treat them are likewise dissimilar. Common drugs for treating arthritis, for example, are the NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which, as their name suggests, try to reduce swelling and inflammation, so easing pressure on arthritic joints. An increasingly popular anti-inflammatory is the COX-2 inhibitor, designed to be kinder to the stomach.
It’s hard to see, therefore, why some therapists are beginning to treat mild, early-stage Alzheimer’s with an NSAID or a COX-2. The only likely reason is the belief that Alzheimer’s is, in some way, an inflammatory disease.
But researchers have tested the theory, and found it wanting. They tried tested the NSAID naproxen and the COX-2 inhibitor rofecoxib against a placebo on 351 patients.
They found that neither drug was any better than the placebo in slowing the progress of the disease over a year. Worse, many of those on one of the drugs suffered at least one adverse reaction, such as hypertension, fatigue or dizziness.
So, in short, they were worse off while taking one of the arthritis drugs.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 289: 2819-26).