New research suggests a prescription painkiller often used for period pain could reduce brain inflammation, but scientists are quick to point out that the study was done on mice
Researchers from Manchester University have discovered that a relatively common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory has beneficial on memory loss, even going so far as to claim that it can totally reverse dementia memory problems.
In the study, mefenamic acid, which is often found in painkillers prescribed for severe period pain or tooth ache, and costs as little as 24p, was given to 10 mice who had had their genes altered to mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Another 10 were given a placebo. Those who had received the mefenamic acid saw a complete reversal in their memory symptoms.
However, this research must be taken with a pinch of salt, because of the fact the trial participants were mice. No research has been done on humans, the long-term health implications of taking this drug have not been studied and you should definitely not start taking it if you have the disease.
Dr David Brough, who led the study, said:
‘There is experimental evidence now to strongly suggest that inflammation in the brain makes Alzheimer’s disease worse.
‘Our research shows for the first time that mefenamic acid, a simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can target an important inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which damages brain cells.
‘Until now, no drug has been available to target this pathway, so we are very excited by this result.
‘However, much more work needs to be done until we can say with certainty that it will tackle the disease in humans as mouse models don’t always faithfully replicate the human disease.
‘Because this drug is already available and the toxicity and pharmacokinetics of the drug is known, the time for it to reach patients should, in theory, be shorter than if we were developing completely new drugs.’
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, added:
‘Testing drugs already in use for other conditions is a priority for Alzheimer’s Society – it could allow us to shortcut the fifteen years or so needed to develop a new dementia drug from scratch.
‘These promising lab results identify a class of existing drugs that have potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease by blocking a particular part of the immune response.
‘However, these drugs are not without side effects and should not be taken for Alzheimer’s disease at this stage – studies in people are needed first.’