A new study has demonstrated that neither Pfizer’s COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex nor naproxen improve cognitive function in patients aged 70 and older with a family history of Alzheimer disease.

Previously, several studies have suggested that long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However the authors of the latest study, which has been published in the Archives of Neurology, are suggesting that patients should not take NSAIDS for Alzheimer’s because there is no benefit and they carry cardiovascular risks.

The study is the result of investigators on the ADAPT trial, which involved more than 2,000 people who were randomised to receive Celebrex (celecoxib) twice daily, naproxen twice daily or placebo. ADAPT was halted early, in 2004, when heart risks emerged from a separate study on Celebrex.

As part of the study, patients underwent a number of tests of cognitive function for two years. The findings demonstrated that over time, patients who received naproxen scored lower than those who received placebo, while those on Celebrex scored lower on some but not all measures of cognitive function over time, compared with placebo.

Barbara Martin, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and an author of the study, did not have the results "we were hoping for. We designed this study hoping we would see a protective effect of these drugs”. However, further studies of ADAPT are planned which will monitor those who participated in the trial to determine whether there may be a delayed benefit for NSAIDs.