Asprin prevents first stroke
10 January 2012, 12:28
Scientific research published questioned the benefits of taking an aspirin a day to reduce the risk of an untimely death from a heart attack or stroke.
The study, the largest conducted in people with no previous history of heart problems,
found that such patients were unlikely to fare better on a regular dose
of the common medicine because it increases the risk of internal
"The benefits of aspirin in those individuals not known to have these
(heart) conditions are far more modest than previously believed and in
fact, aspirin treatment may ... result in considerable harm due to major
bleeding," said Rao Seshasai of St George's, University of London, who
led the study.
It found that while one so-called cardiovascular event was averted for
every 120 people treated with aspirin for about six years, one in 73
people suffered from potentially significant bleeding during in the same
The findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine
journal, will fuel an already intense debate about the merits of taking
aspirin, which experts say carries a risk of bleeding in the stomach in
around one patient in every 1 000 per year.
Seshasai said that in the light of his findings, aspirin
recommendations such as the United States Preventive Services Task Force
guidelines and the Joint British Societies' guidelines should be
Instead of broad recommendations, he said, aspirin treatment should be considered "more selectively on a case-by-case basis".
Aspirin, originally developed by Bayer, is a cheap over-the-counter drug used for pain and to reduce fever.
The drug reduces the risk of clots forming in blood vessels and can
therefore protect against heart attacks and strokes, so it is often
prescribed for people who already suffer with heart disease and have
already had one or several attacks.
Research published last year also found taking daily aspirin had a
significant protective effect against the risk of developing many types
of cancer - particularly bowel cancer and other gastrointestinal
The scientist who led the cancer study said that while taking aspirin
carried a small risk of stomach bleeding, that risk was beginning to be
"drowned out" by its benefits in reducing the risk of cancer and the
risk of heart attacks.
Many medical experts prescribe a daily aspirin dose as a precaution for
people with no previous history of heart attack or stroke, but who are
considered at higher risk due to other factors such as having high blood
pressure or being overweight.
Seshasai's team looked at aspirin's effectiveness when used in this way
- called primary prevention - and found that while daily or alternate
day doses cut the risk of cardiovascular events by 10%, this was mainly
due to fewer non-fatal heart attacks.
The overall reduction in the study, which analysed data from nine
clinical trials involving more than 100 000 participants, was also found
not to include reductions in other events such as deaths from heart
attack, or fatal or non-fatal strokes.
The study showed the benefit of regular aspirin was almost entirely
offset by a 30% increase in risk of life-threatening or debilitating
incidences internal bleeding.
It also looked at the effects aspirin had on deaths from cancer and
found that contrary to last year's study, aspirin did not reduce the
overall risk of death from cancers.
"There is an enormous interest in understanding the role of aspirin in
cancer prevention," Seshasai said. "No evidence of benefit was found (in
this study)... but more research is needed given these were only of six
years in duration."
(Sapa, January 2012)