Daily aspirin may be harmful for healthy, older adults, large study finds

18 September, 2018, 12:18 | Author: Sue Riley

Aspirin has always been used as a preventative measure to help reduce the risk of blood clots in patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke. McNeil added it was important to focus on this cohort because aspirin is used by healthy, older people in the hopes that it will keep them well, with some even taking it without a prescription from their physician.

But the new global study followed 19,114 seniors for an average of 4.7 years.

Its findings do not disprove the benefits of aspirin for those who have cardiovascular disease (the Heart Foundation recommends a daily dose for those with coronary heart disease), have previously suffered from a heart attack or a stroke, or those younger than 70.

This latest study has indicated just how bad the side-effects can be with a clear increase in the number of cases of serious bleeding among aspirin takers at 3.8 per cent compared to the placebo group at 2.8 per cent.

After about five years of treatment, the rate of heart disease was not significantly lower in the 9,525 volunteers taking 100mg of aspirin daily than in the 9,589 who took placebo tablets.

At the end of the study, the rate of cardiovascular disease between the two groups of participants was not much different: 9,525 of those taking the aspirin had developed cardiovascular disease compared to 9,589 of those taking the placebo.

About half of them took 100 milligrams of aspirin daily (slightly more than a baby aspirin, which has 81 milligrams) and the other half were given a placebo.

Doctors in Australia and the United States enrolled more than 19,000 healthy people - whites over the age of 70 and blacks and Hispanics aged 65 and older - in the study.

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The clinical trial did not include people who take aspirin for medical reasons as advised by their doctor, including those who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke.

Significant bleeding - a known risk of regular aspirin use - was also measured.

Their findings were published Sunday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

"For a healthy person 70 and older who doesn't have an indication to be on aspirin, there really is no benefit to be on aspirin, in fact, the risks appear to outweigh the benefits in terms of increase bleeding risk and the potential for increased mortality risk", said Dr. Anne Murphy, co-principal investigator of the trial and director of the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research. Previous research has suggested that taking daily aspirin offers protection against certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

"We found there was no discernible benefit of aspirin on prolonging independent, healthy life for the elderly", Dr. Anne Murray, one of the authors of the study and an epidemiologist and geriatrician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Rob Stein. But this small difference could be due to chance, researchers said.

Hadley noted only 11 percent of participants had regularly taken low-dose aspirin before entering the study.

"If they have such disease in the past, they need to take the aspirin to prevent the recurrence of similar disease in the future", he said.

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