Ibuprofen has been found to extend the lifespan of yeast, worms and flies, and is now being touted as a possible anti-ageing medicine.

The over-the-counter painkiller was found to extend the lifespans of the organisms by 15% on average.

In their study, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging used doses comparable to those used in humans. Not only did it make organisms live longer, it also improved the health of one of the species.

Findings showed the extended lifespan in the model organisms would be equivalent to adding at least 12 years onto a healthy living human. Lead author Chong He said: "Our preliminary data in the worms showed that ibuprofen also extended their healthspan.

"Healthy worms tend to thrash a lot and the treated worms thrashed much longer than would be normally expected. As they aged, they also swallowed food much faster than expected."

Researcher Brian Kennedy said: "There is a lot to be excited about. Not only did all the species live longer, but the treated flies and worms appeared more healthy. The research shows that ibuprofen impacts a process not yet implicated in ageing, giving us a new way to study and understand the ageing process.

"Ibuprofen is a relatively safe drug, found in most people's medicine cabinets. There is every reason to believe there are other existing treatments that can impact healthspan and we need to be studying them."

He also said it opens another door in the search for "anti-ageing medicines" and that although they do not know exactly why it works, it shows common drugs can extend the lifespan of diverse organisms. This means it should be possible to find other drugs with an even better ability to do so "with the aim of adding healthy years of life in people".

Ibuprofen was created in the 1960s and became available over the counter in the 1980s. It in an anti-inflammatory drug used for reliving pain, fever and reducing inflammation. While mostly safe, when used in high doses it can cause problems with the gastrointestinal tract and the liver.

He said: "Ibuprofen is something that people have been taking for years, and no one actually knew that it can may have some benefits for longevity and health span."