Published: Mon, September 17, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Daily aspirin 'does not improve health', study finds

He added: "It means millions of healthy older people around the world who are taking low dose aspirin without a medical reason, may be doing so unnecessarily, because the study showed no overall benefit to offset the risk of bleeding".

The findings do not apply to people taking aspirin because of a heart attack or stroke - they should continue to follow their doctor's advice.

Research into almost 20,000 older people found those who were generally healthy derived no protective benefit from the blood-thinning pill - but it increased their risk of unsafe bleeds.

The researchers noted that aspirin was associated with a significantly increased risk of bleeding, primarily in the gastrointestinal tract and brain.

Professor John McNeil, head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, said the research sought to answer a question which has been "unresolved for a number of years". Three reports in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the pills had no effect whatsoever and did not reduce their risk of heart problems nor led to any other benefit.

However, most research on the benefits of aspirin are performed on people in middle age and there is mounting evidence the dangers increase as we get older.

Of those taking the medicine, 5.9% died during the study compared to 5.2% of the placebo group.

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The test subjects, a lot of them 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.

The participants took a daily low-dose of aspirin every day for almost five years, with researchers monitoring their health and any occurrences of disease, disability or death.

The research was led by Monash University in Australia and the Berman Centre for Outcomes and Clinical Research in the US.

Treatment with aspirin did not affect survival free of dementia or disability, the study found, and rates of cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks and strokes, were also similar to the placebo group.

Numerous extra deaths were due to cancer, but Leslie Ford from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland said that until the team had analysed more data, the cancer findings "should be interpreted with caution".

While aspirin has been a commonly used drug among the elderly, it has been taken with the risk of bleeding, which is known as a side-effect of taking the medication. ASPREE has provided this answer.

When the researchers looked at death, disability and dementia, they found virtually no difference between the aspirin-taking group and the group given a placebo: 21.5 events per 1000 person-years in the former and 21.2 per 1000 person-years in the latter.

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