New study debunks aspirin claims

Aspirin tablets and a bottle

Image Researchers say there is no need for healthy people to take an aspirin a day

"It has been known long enough that there was no clear reason to advice one way or another on taking an aspirin a day in older people", John McNeil, principal investigator and head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, told BusinessLine.

The clinical trial, which ran from 2010 to 2014 and included 19,114 individuals 70 years and older from the US and Australia, found that a low daily dose of aspirin only marginally decreased a patient's risk of cardiovascular disease while significantly increasing the patient's risk of hemorrhage.

What do you think of the latest findings? Prescribing aspirin to healthy people to prevent the onset of heart disease is controversial although it happens.

Researchers found that a daily dose of the so-called "wonder pill" didn't prolong healthy life free of dementia.

"A lot of people read, 'Well, aspirin is good for people who have heart problems. The rate of major haemorrhage was 8.6 events per 1000 person years and 6.2 events per 1000 person years, respectively", said the study.

The study, involving 19,114 older people - 16,703 in Australia and 2,411 in the United States - began in 2010 and enrolled participants aged 70 and older. Patients who were black or Hispanic and living in the U.S. - two groups that face a higher risk of heart disease or dementia - could be age 65 or older. The age limit was lowered for those groups because blacks and Hispanics tend to be younger than whites when they have their first heart attack or stroke. But when researchers looked at more than 19,000 people in Australia and the United States over almost five years, they found it wasn't so.

They said that while higher all-cause mortality was observed among apparently healthy older adults who received daily aspirin, than among those who received placebo, this was attributed primarily to cancer-related death and in the context of previous studies, this result was unexpected and should be interpreted with caution.

The aspirin group were also at a slightly increased risk of death.

But the rate of bleeding was significantly different. They noted however the escalated rate of bleeding in the team that accrued aspirin, as compared to the team that accrued a placebo.

Agus said aspirin recommendations are a confusing area since 20 to 30 years ago, when many aspirin studies were done, people smoked more, generally weighed less and took fewer medications to help with cholesterol.

Among the people randomly assigned to take aspirin, 90.3 per cent remained alive at the end of the treatment without persistent physical disability or dementia, compared with 90.5 per cent of those taking a placebo. This finding was surprising because nearly half of those extra deaths were due to cancer, including colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers.

If you're taking a daily aspirin to stay healthy, new evidence suggests you might want to reconsider.

So what should older healthy adults do with this new information about aspirin?

The randomised double-blind trial, called ASPREE, was conducted by Monash University in Australia and the Berman Centre for Outcomes and Clinical Research in the United States.

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