Published: Thu, September 20, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Aspirin does not reduce heart attack, stroke risk

Aspirin does not reduce heart attack, stroke risk

In the new study, most volunteers fell into that category and aspirin didn't seem to help them.

Over 19,000 people in Australia and the USA were studied over seven years for the study was called ASPREE - Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly.

Millions of healthy people take small doses of aspirin regularly in the belief that the drug will prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Aspirin users did not have a lower risk of heart disease or live longer than those who took a placebo.

According to principal investigator of the study, John McNeil, who is head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, the results of the trial will result in a rethinking of global guidelines relating to the use of aspirin to prevent common conditions associated with ageing.

Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, former president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the use of low-dose aspirin for healthy elderly people was controversial.

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The study found it could actually increase the risk of internal bleeding.

Several years ago, many physicians floated the idea of using a regimen of low-dose daily aspirin to prevent cardiovascular diseases in the elderly.

"These findings will help inform prescribing doctors who have always been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients who do not have a clear medical reason for doing so", John McNeil, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia, said in a statement. However, the higher death rate was due to more cancer deaths in the aspirin group, which could have been due to chance, the researchers said.

"Many people are taking aspirin for important medical reasons", McNeil said. "They may have been taking it for five to 10 they should really go back and talk to their GP before they stop taking it".

It was called the Aspirin In Reducing Events In The Elderly (ASPREE) trial and the results have been published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It was first synthesised in 1898, and since the 1960s has been known to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke among those who had previously experienced heart disease or stroke.

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One surprise for the researchers was that the group that took aspirin died at a slightly higher rate from all causes than the group that didn't.

"The authors rightly suggest treating the unexpected effects with caution, but they also show that benefits of aspirin in healthy people are at best limited, and may well be harmful, and this harm may be increased beyond age 73", Evans added. Half the participants were asked to take 100mg of aspirin each day, while the rest took a placebo pill.

The study confirmed that a daily baby aspirin increases the risk for serious, potentially life-threatening bleeding.

Professor McNeil added that a small increase in deaths observed in the aspirin group, primarily from cancer, required further investigation as researchers can not rule out that it may be a chance finding. But the researchers interpreted the data cautiously, because other studies have shown aspirin to have a protective effect against colorectal cancer.

When the researchers looked at death, disability and dementia, they found virtually no difference between the aspirin-taking group and the group given a placebo: 21.5 events per 1000 person-years in the former and 21.2 per 1000 person-years in the latter.

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