As­pirin truths a bit­ter pill for some

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AS­PIRIN does not pre­vent dis­eases as­so­ci­ated with old age and tak­ing it daily could ac­tu­ally be do­ing more harm than good, the largest study to in­ves­ti­gate the trend has found.

A ground­break­ing trial of more than 19,000 par­tic­i­pants in Aus­tralia and the US, in­clud­ing 1365 from South Aus­tralia, has shed new light on the tablet’s health ben­e­fits.

A pre­vi­ous study has in­di­cated around 40 to 50 per cent of peo­ple over 70 were tak­ing as­pirin daily, with many think­ing it can boost over­all health.

This new study is the most com­pre­hen­sive of its type, and found an as­pirin a day did not pro­long a life free of dis­abil­ity or sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke among par­tic­i­pants. Lit­tle dif­fer­ence was de­tected be­tween the placebo and as­pirin groups.

The seven-year study also showed an in­crease in the num­ber of cases of se­ri­ous bleed­ing, specif­i­cally gas­troin­testi­nal or in­tracra­nial, among the as­pir­in­tak­ers. Bleed­ing is a well­known side ef­fect of as­pirin and more com­mon in older peo­ple.

The study, led by a team from Monash Univer­sity, in­volved the Univer­sity of Ade­laide’s Pro­fes­sor Nigel Stocks as chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor from SA.

Prof Stocks said the idea that tak­ing as­pirin led to pro­longed good health in older age seemed to have sprung from as­pirin’s le­git­i­mate uses.

“Peo­ple ex­trap­o­late,’’ he said. “You hear peo­ple are tak­ing it to stop heart dis­ease not real­is­ing that it’s be­cause they’ve al­ready had a heart attack or stroke.

“The ben­e­fits for us­ing it to pre­vent an­other heart attack or stroke out­weigh the po­ten­tial bleed­ing prob­lems.”

He said the study would re­sult in a re­think­ing of global guide­lines re­lat­ing to the use of as­pirin to pre­vent com­mon con­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with age­ing.

“As­pirin is a very use­ful drug that is widely and ap­pro­pri­ately pre­scribed to peo­ple who have had a heart attack or stroke (car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease),” Prof Stocks said.

“A large ran­domised con­trolled trial has been long over­due and (this) has pro­vided the an­swer.

“Th­ese re­sults now give guid­ance to doc­tors who were un­sure as to whether tak­ing as­pirin reg­u­larly is ben­e­fi­cial for healthy older pa­tients.”

Prof Stocks said pa­tients should con­tinue to fol­low doc­tor’s ad­vice. The re­sults are pub­lished in to­day’s New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

Rod Wil­liams, 74, from Camp­bell­town has been part of the study for five years and was not sur­prised by the re­sult.

“I use as­pirin in­fre­quently,” Mr Wil­liams said.

“Usu­ally only for headaches and that kind of thing.

“I think its ef­fec­tive for that but I’m not sure whether it would have any af­fect on other kinds of health con­di­tions.”

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