Aspirin does not reduce heart attack, stroke risk

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says healthy people who take low-dose aspirin every day receive no health benefit

When the participants were followed up almost five years later, doctors found that compared with the placebo, a daily aspirin had not reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke, or prolonged the number of years people lived without dementia or physical disabilities.

Last Updated: September 16, 2018.

Almost one half of the group was given 100 milligrams of aspirin while the others were given a placebo for almost five years.

"These findings will help inform prescribing doctors, who have always been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients who do not have a clear medical reason for doing so".

A new study confirms aspirin does not help prevent a first heart attack in older adults or prolong your lifespan.

ASPREE also showed an increase in the number of cases of serious bleeding among the aspirin-takers (3.8%) compared to the placebo group (2.8%).

"It has been obvious since the 1990s that there was a need for a trial of aspirin for primary prevention in people age 70 and over".

Other large aspirin studies have suggested that aspirin may prevent cancer over the longer term.

"These findings will help inform prescribing doctors who have always been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients who do not have a clear medical reason for doing so", John McNeil, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia, said in a statement.

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"People aged over 45 with no known coronary heart disease will benefit most from a healthy lifestyle and seeing their doctor for risk assessments such as blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels", a spokesperson for the Heart Foundation said.

The test subjects, majority from Australia, were older than 70, except for blacks and Hispanics in the United States, who were recruited at age 65 or older because people in those groups have a higher risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems than whites. At study enrollment, ASPREE participants could not have dementia or a physical disability and had to be free of medical conditions requiring aspirin use.

Dr Nespolon said while there have been mixed opinions on whether giving healthy people aspirin is a good idea, this new study "clearly shows people over 70 shouldn't be taking aspirin as simply an aid to their health".

The team of scientists was led by John J. McNeil, M.B.B.S., head of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Health at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and Anne M. Murray, M.D., director of the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis.

"Differences between the aspirin group and the placebo group were not substantial with regard to the secondary individual end points of death from any cause (12.7 events per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group and 11.1 events per 1000 person-years in the placebo group), dementia, or persistent physical disability". ASPREE has provided this answer, McNeil said. It was also found to increase risk of major hemorrhage or bleeding.

Some completely healthy people also choose to take aspirin to reduce their risk and there is continuing research into whether the drug can be used to cut the risk of cancer.

"We were so hoping that such an low-cost and accessible medication might be effective in prolonging healthy independent life", Murray said. "It would be unwise to stop without speaking to their doctor about it".

It was called the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial.

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