The cytokine interleukin-6 is consistently detected in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients but not in the brains of nondemented elderly persons. Until recently it was unclear whether an interleukin-6-associated inflammatory mechanism is an early or late event in the pathological cascade of Alzheimer's disease. We investigated whether interleukin-6 could be detected in plaques of Alzheimer's disease patients prior to the onset of neuritic degeneration. We found interleukin-6 mostly in plaques where neuritic pathology has not yet developed. This indicates that the appearance of interleukin-6 may precede neuritic changes and is not just a consequence of neuritic degeneration. Therefore, one may hypothesize that activation of inflammatory mechanisms may cause neuritic degeneration in plaques. A suppression of interleukin-6 synthesis could, therefore, be of therapeutic value. Upon screening a number of substances, we found that a small number of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, including tenidap, were able to inhibit interleukin-6 synthesis in cultured human astrocytoma cells. These substances may be therapeutically useful in Alzheimer's disease and should be evaluated in clinical studies.