November 3, 2009

Regular Aspirin Use Not Needed In Non-Risk Patients

People with healthy hearts should not begin taking aspirin regularly in order to protect against heart attacks, according to a new study.

Researchers with the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin showed that aspirin can result in internal bleeding, and it does not reverse or prevent cardiovascular disease deaths.

Many previous studies have shown that taking aspirin can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients who have already suffered from one.

The DTB said that four sets of guidelines were issued from 2005 to 2008 for the use of primary prevention of heart disease among patients with no sign of heart disease symptoms.

Researchers said a study of six controlled trials of 95,000 patients shows that daily aspirin use in non-risk patients was not necessary and could be dangerous if it leads to stomach bleeding.

Additionally, they noted that an aspirin regimen in non-risk patients had very little impact on reducing death rates.

"Current evidence for primary prevention suggests the benefits and harms of aspirin in this setting may be more finely balanced than previously thought, even in individuals estimated to be at high risk of experiencing cardiovascular events, including those with diabetes or elevated blood pressure," Dr Ike Ikeanacho, editor of the DTB, told BBC News.

"We don't have any precise figures but it is very common for people to start themselves on aspirin, taking the drug daily in the belief that it is a way to protect against heart attack or stroke."

"When you talk about stomach bleeding it can sound trivial but it is a killer if it is severe enough and as deadly as having a heart attack or stroke.

"The risks should not be dismissed."

"Given the evidence, the DTB's statement on aspirin prescription is a sensible one," said Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

"The Royal College of General Practitioners would support their call for existing guidelines on aspirin prescription to be amended, and for a review of patients currently taking aspirin for prevention."


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