Aspirin, steroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs use for treating Alzheimer's disease

Inflammation may play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. There is also some evidence from community surveys that people receiving anti-inflammatory drugs for various medical conditions may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Fourteen studies met our inclusion criteria for this review and none of the exclusion criteria. Aspirin, steroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (traditional and the selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors) showed no significant benefit in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, the use of these drugs cannot be recommended for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.         

Authors' conclusions: 

Based on the studies carried out so far, the efficacy of aspirin, steroid and NSAIDs (traditional NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors) is not proven. Therefore, these drugs cannot be recommended for the treatment of AD.

Read the full abstract...

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. The incidence of AD rises exponentially with age and its prevalence will increase significantly worldwide in the next few decades. Inflammatory processes have been suspected in the pathogenesis of the disease.


To review the efficacy and side effects of aspirin, steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the treatment of AD, compared to placebo.

Search strategy: 

We searched ALOIS: the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group’s Specialized Register on 12 April 2011 using the terms: aspirin OR "cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitor" OR aceclofenac OR acemetacin OR betamethasone OR celecoxib OR cortisone OR deflazacort OR dexamethasone OR dexibruprofen OR dexketoprofen OR diclofenac sodium OR diflunisal OR diflusinal OR etodolac OR etoricoxib OR fenbufen OR fenoprofen OR flurbiprofen OR hydrocortisone OR ibuprofen OR indometacin OR indomethacin OR ketoprofen OR lumiracoxib OR mefenamic OR meloxicam OR methylprednisolone OR nabumetone OR naproxen OR nimesulide OR "anti-inflammatory" OR prednisone OR piroxicam OR sulindac OR tenoxicam OR tiaprofenic acid OR triamcinolone OR NSAIDS OR NSAID. ALOIS contains records of clinical trials identified from monthly searches of a number of major healthcare databases (including MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, LILACS), numerous trial registries (including national, international and pharmacuetical registries) and grey literature sources.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials assessing the efficacy of aspirin, steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in AD.

Data collection and analysis: 

One author assessed risk of bias of each study and extracted data. A second author verified data selection.

Main results: 

Our search identified 604 potentially relevant studies. Of these, 14 studies (15 interventions) were RCTs and met our inclusion criteria. The numbers of participants were 352, 138 and 1745 for aspirin, steroid and NSAIDs groups, respectively. One selected study comprised two separate interventions. Interventions assessed in these studies were grouped into four categories: aspirin (three interventions), steroids (one intervention), traditional NSAIDs (six interventions), and selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors (five interventions). All studies were evaluated for internal validity using a risk of bias assessment tool. The risk of bias was low for five studies, high for seven studies, and unclear for two studies.There was no significant improvement in cognitive decline for aspirin, steroid, traditional NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors. Compared to controls, patients receiving aspirin experienced more bleeding while patients receiving steroid experienced more hyperglycaemia, abnormal lab results and face edema. Patients receiving NSAIDs experienced nausea, vomiting, elevated creatinine, elevated LFT and hypertension. A trend towards higher death rates was observed among patients treated with NSAIDS compared with placebo and this was somewhat higher for selective COX-2 inhibitors than for traditional NSAIDs.