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Painkillers offer new hope to Parkinson's sufferers

A painkiller taken by millions may protect against Parkinson's and even slow progression of the disease, research suggests.

Findings from a large study in the US showed that ibuprofen, widely marketed in Ireland as Nurofen, lowered the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by as much as 38pc.

Other pain-relieving medicines, such as aspirin, naproxen and diclofenac, did not have the same effect.

Researchers believe ibuprofen may have a unique ability to protect the brain cells that are lost by Parkinson's patients.

Nurses

But experts warn that excessive use of ibuprofen can lead to harmful side effects, such as gastro-intestinal bleeding.

The scientists analysed data from more than 37,000 male health professionals and almost 99,000 female nurses.

Over a six-year period, 156 men and 135 women were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Participants' use of medicines known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) was recorded along with other information such as age, smoking habits, and diet. The results showed that those who took ibuprofen two or more times a week were 38pc less likely to develop Parkinson's.

Dr Xiang Gao, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, said: "Our findings suggest that ibuprofen could be a potential neuroprotective agent against Parkinson's disease, however the exact mechanism is unknown.

hnews@herald.ie