Low-dose aspirin doesn't extend healthy living in older people

Henrietta Brewer
September 18, 2018

A large clinical trial involving participants in Australia and the United States of America found a daily low-dose aspirin had no effect on prolonging life in healthy, elderly people. "Many people, including me, do not believe that aspirin offers meaningful benefits in primary prevention and carries substantial bleeding risks".

The researchers point out that ASPREE's findings relate only to healthy older people, aged over 70 years, and do not apply to those taking aspirin on medical advice, for example those who have had a heart attack or stroke.

Watch the full story above. In the August study and the new one, researchers found a significant risk of internal gastric bleeding caused by the medication, which thins the blood.

But the new worldwide study followed 19,114 seniors for an average of 4.7 years. Rates of people who suffered from disability and dementia were almost the same.

McNeil added that a small increase in deaths observed in the aspirin group, primarily from cancer, required further investigation as researchers can not rule out that it may be a chance finding.

'The concern has been uncertainty about whether aspirin is beneficial for otherwise healthy older people without those conditions.

Another clinical trial has added more evidence against the fairly common practice of prescribing aspirin to healthy older adults in order to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. No, says a large scale study that was actually meant to study how aspirin could help! Heart disease and stroke accounted for 19 percent of the deaths and major bleeding for 5 percent.

It may ultimately turn out that there are more benefits than risks in certain populations, said the study's lead author, John McNeil, a professor in the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Melbourne.

But 3.8% of the aspirin takers experienced serious bleeding, compared with 2.8% of the placebo group.

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.

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

Doctors last night said the findings "emphatically" showed there was no reason to use aspirin to prevent disease in healthy people and warned it may harm.

Around half of the participants took a 100mg low dose of aspirin daily, while the others were given a placebo. At the same time, the rate of hemorrhage was 8.6 events per 1,000 person-years in the aspirin group and 6.2 events in the control group.

Big changes have occurred in preventive medicine since the original aspirin research was done, Michos told NBC News in an email.

Aspirin is not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an active or previous stomach ulcer, or have a medical condition associated with bleeding.

"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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