Published: Tue, September 18, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Daily aspirin may involve more risk than reward

Daily aspirin may involve more risk than reward

In the new study, most volunteers fell into that category and aspirin didn't seem to help them. 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. The researchers then followed the study's participants for a median of 4.7 years.

It found similar survival rates as well as rates of disability, dementia, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes for the half taking 100mg of aspirin daily and the half taking a placebo. Hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal hemorrhages or hemorrhages at other sites that required transfusion or hospitalization occurred in 361 people on aspirin and in 265 taking the placebo.

The study found the higher death rate in the aspirin-treated group was due primarily to a higher rate of cancer deaths.

If you are a healthy older person and take a low-dose aspirin every day, it may be more harmful than you think.

"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. "But for the people who decide to take aspirin just off their own bat, this research has cast some doubt over whether it is a good idea".

While there were 21.5 cases of death, dementia or disability per 1,000 patients each year in the aspirin group, the rate was 21.2 with placebo.

The cancer finding surprised researchers because in other studies, aspirin protected against death from cancer.

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

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There is substantial evidence that supports the daily use of aspirin for secondary prevention of heart disease, which means patients are prescribed the drug after they've already experienced a heart attack or stroke.

The first study comes from Monash University in Australia, where researchers followed almost 20,000 people across Australia and the US for a period of five years.

Elderly people in good health should not take an aspirin a day, according to a major Australian study.

"But we have not identified results that are strikingly different", McNeil said in an email.

Doctor Leslie Ford, associate director for clinical research, at the National Cancer Institute in the USA, said: 'The increase in cancer deaths in study participants in the aspirin group was surprising, given prior studies suggesting aspirin use improved cancer outcomes.

Lead researcher Professor John McNeil, of Monash University, Australia, said the study proves many older people may be taking the medicine "unnecessarily".

For cardiovascular disease, the rate was 10.7 events per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person-years in the placebo group - also considered no difference. "In India, self treatment with aspirin is often seen, and it should be strictly forbidden", said Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.

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