New study debunks aspirin claims

The Monash University-lead ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial, involving more than 19,000 patients in Australia and the U.S., found that one 100mg aspirin a day did not prolong life free of disability, and did not significantly reduce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke among healthy participants. The new study was created to find out whether low-dose aspirin could prolong healthy, independent living in seniors who had not shown signs of heart disease.

Dr. Ravi Dave says aspirin may make sense for a small group of older, healthy patients, even if they haven't already had a heart attack or stroke, such as smokers. They were followed for a median of 4.7 years.

When the participants were followed up almost five years later, doctors found that compared with the placebo, a daily aspirin had not reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke, or prolonged the number of years people lived without dementia or physical disabilities.

But internal bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal bleeding, and other bleeding) was found in 3.8% of patients taking aspirin versus 2.7% of those taking a placebo.

Dr. John McNeil, an epidemiology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told New York Times reporter Denise Grady that "if you don't need it, don't start it".

The participants took a daily low-dose of aspirin every day for almost five years, with researchers monitoring their health and any occurrences of disease, disability or death.

Participants took either aspirin or a placebo daily over a four-and-a-half year period.

"These initial findings will help to clarify the role of aspirin in disease prevention for older adults, but much more needs to be learned", Hadley said.

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The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 100 milligrams per day of aspirin or a placebo pill.

It had been assumed this protective action could be extrapolated to people who were otherwise healthy to prevent a first heart attack or stroke (known as primary prevention). The authors said that "these findings should be interpreted with caution" until more studies are completed, particularly because other research has concluded that the drug helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

However, the cases of major bleeding were 38 per cent more with aspirin.

But according to a trio of studies published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine, a daily low-dose aspirin regimen provides no significant health benefits for healthy older adults.

A trial of aspirin in the elderly was first called for in the early 1990s.

"The increase in cancer deaths in study participants in the aspirin group was surprising, given prior studies suggesting aspirin use improved cancer outcomes", Leslie Ford, the associate director of clinical research at the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Prevention, said in a news release. Previous studies found aspirin may be protective against certain kinds of cancer.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said: "For the treatment of heart disease, or for those who have suffered heart attacks, aspirin has been a "wonder drug".

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