Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Ground-breaking research finds daily aspirin dose doesn't lead to longer life

Aspirin tablets and a bottle Image Researchers say there is no need for healthy people to take an aspirin a day
Ben Pena | 18 September, 2018, 09:09

In healthy elderly people who never had a heart attack, the widespread practice of taking a baby, or low dose, aspirin every day may do more harm than good, according to a US-Australian study of more than 19,000 volunteers. But the researchers interpreted the data cautiously, because other studies have shown aspirin to have a protective effect against colorectal cancer.

Those that took aspirin were also at 'significantly ' increased risk of bleeding, primarily in the gastrointestinal tract and brain, it was revealed. "But not only did it not decrease risk of disability or death, it did not decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, and there was an increase in the rate of death".

Over a four-year span starting in 2010, the trial enrolled more than 19,000 people in Australia and the United States of America who were 70 and older, or 65 for African-American and Hispanic participants because their risks of dementia or cardiovascular disease are higher. Aspirin has been widely used in healthy older adults to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. In an environment where conflict-of-interest issues rock the research world as funds are put in by drug companies, McNeil clarified, in this study, that the originator company Bayer only provided the tablets and placebo (an inert pill that does not contain the active drug). Prescribing aspirin to healthy people to prevent the onset of heart disease is controversial although it happens. They were followed for a median of 4.7 years.

Participants had to be 70 years or older (or 65 and older among blacks and Hispanics in the U.S.). Rates of physical disability and dementia were similar between the groups.

While evidence remains strong that baby aspirin therapy aids in preventing a second heart attack or stroke, the study explored whether a first heart attack can be prevented by the small amount of blood thinners in aspirin.

When the McNeil team looked at death from any cause, aspirin still made no difference statistically, with a rate of 12.7 per 1,000 patients each year with aspirin and 11.1 with placebo.

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But the rate of major bleeding with daily aspirin use was 3.8 per cent, versus 2.8 per cent with placebo.

Using the help of Global Positioning System, researchers recruited 16,703 older people in Australia and 2411 in the United States, with approximately 9500 people in both the aspirin and the placebo group.

"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. "It is possible pre-existing cancers may have interacted with the aspirin".

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 we have not identified results that are strikingly different", McNeil said in an email. Previous research has suggested that taking daily aspirin offers protection against certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. Patients now get statins to lower cholesterol and anti-hypertensive medications to lower blood pressure.

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