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Ibuprofen May Help Stave Off Parkinson’s


3 Star

Ibuprofen May Help Stave Off Parkinson’s

Our Review Summary

This kind of study can’t prove cause-and-effect.  No such explanation was given in the story.  This study isn’t published, isn’t peer-reviewed yet, and won’t even be presented in a talk at a meeting for two months yet.  The story discusses a 40 percent risk reduction.  40 percent of what? From what to what? 


Why This Matters

How you frame a story is so important.  Putting "may stave off Parkinson’s" in the headline, and quoting a doctor who said he would "definitely discuss ibuprofen use" with his patients – without strong caveats – is troubling in this story.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  Costs not discussed but most people know that ibuprofen products are inexpensive.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

We also continue to be puzzled by the number of stories that use only relative risk reduction figures, not absolute risk reduction figures.  We have a brief primer on this topic.  The point is that when the story discusses "40 percent lower risk," we need to know 40 percent of what? 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story did at least mention that "persistent use of ibuprofen can lead to gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining."

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

We continue to be puzzled by the number of stories – like this one – that don’t find a way to at least briefly mention the limitations of some studies.  This story, for example, never mentioned that this was a a meta-analysis – a study of previously published studies.  Look at how published caveats: 

  • " although epidemiologic studies have often linked ibuprofen to reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, this kind of study cannot determine causality or entirely eliminate confounding.
  • Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal."
Simple, clear, important caveats – not like a headline that reads "Ibuprofen May Help Stave Off Parkinson’s."

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering of Parkinson’s Disease.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


One independent source was quoted.  But we’re troubled by the story letting that source get away with saying he would "definitely discuss ibuprofen use" with his patients – because it would be very easy to find other sources who would say it’s far too early to discuss ibuprofen use with their patients.  In fact, a story stated that the lead researcher himself said "that it’s too early to make any clinical recommendations based on the observational data, which not only need confirmation in prospective trials but also cannot prove causality."

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentioned that levodopa is the current standard treatment for Parkinson’s, there was no discussion of any other research into prevention of Parkinson’s Disease.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story states that ibuprofen is a common anti-inflammatory drug.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to put the new analysis into the context of existing research, as did, for example: 

These findings largely match those from other epidemiological studies, including the 35% reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease among ibuprofen users in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort reported at the same meeting in 2005, although not all have shown a significant neuroprotective effect.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


One independent source was quoted, so it’s clear the story didn’t rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 9 Satisfactory


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