Published: Thu, September 20, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Daily aspirin 'does not improve health', study finds

Daily aspirin 'does not improve health', study finds

The study ran for four years and enrolled 19,114 people over the age of 70 with no indications of dementia, physical disabilities, or medical conditions that required the use of aspirin.

Head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, John McNeil said that the trial was long overdue and he hopes that the results will help inform prescribing doctors who have always been uncertain whether to recommend the drug to otherwise healthy patients.

Aspirin has been touted as preventing heart attacks and strokes in people with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease.

The ASPREE (Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial found an aspirin a day did not prolong life free of disability, or significantly reduce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke among participants - "with little difference found between the placebo and aspirin groups".

"The take-home message of such a complex, large, placebo-controlled study is that healthy older people contemplating how best to preserve their health will be unlikely to benefit from aspirin", said John McNeil, a professor at the Monash University in Australia.

And researchers found taking low doses of aspirin each day had potentially serious side effects.

The researchers found the use of low-dose aspirin did not prolong disability-free survival (a measure used to reflect a healthy lifespan) among healthy older adults.

"This study shows why it is so important to conduct this type of research so that we can gain a fuller picture of aspirin's benefits and risks among healthy older persons", Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, said in a statement.

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Scientists looked at almost 20,000 healthy Australians and Americans aged over 70, and found taking low doses of aspirin for five years had no benefits - and it actually caused some harm. The Australian component of the study also received funding from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and Monash University.

While aspirin remained a relatively safe medication, it was not benign and patients should follow the advice of their doctor about daily low-dose use, researchers said. 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.

"After a median of 4.7 years of follow-up, the rate of cardiovascular disease was 10.7 events per 1000 person years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person years in the placebo group".

But a study involving more than 19,000 participants has found that there is no significant advantage and that taking aspirin regularly can instead lead to a slightly increased risk of serious bleeding.

However the authors said the small increase in deaths, primarily from cancer, requires further investigation and may be coincidental. They noted however the escalated rate of bleeding in the team that accrued aspirin, as compared to the team that accrued a placebo.

Results released Sunday from a major study of low-dose aspirin contain a disappointing answer for older, otherwise healthy people. It also showed a higher rate of suffering from a major hemorrhage.

"So in terms of people previously well ... the evidence has come in and clearly shown that there is no benefit, and in fact, it can create secondary other issues which are obviously of concern".

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