Friday, May 29, 2009

Is it Time to Rethink Aspirin?

Aspirin? - Yes, I should take that to prevent heart attack and stroke, right??
Well......perhaps. A new study (called a meta-analysis), the largest comparative trial of its kind, shows that being overzealous about aspirin use for prevention of initial heart attack and stroke may be unsubstantiated.

Specifically 95,000 subjects were evaluated in this series, producing 1671 strokes and heart attacks in the aspirin group and 1883 in the control group. Aspirin was associated with an absolute reduction of 0.06% heart-related events per year. Correspondingly, aspirin did not significantly reduce ischemic (non-bleeding) stroke risk, but researchers noted a borderline-significant increase in hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. Aspirin also increased the incidence of bleeding outside the brain. Overall, aspirin was not associated with a significant reduction in vaascular death.

What does it mean? The advantages of aspirin in low risk patients are scant. As cardiovascular risk factors (like smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of early stroke/heart attack) pile up, aspirin gains a bit more support, though there is a modest associated bleeding risk.

We will be following this data and it's analysis further. In the meantime, it may be reasonable to discuss things with your doctor, or perhaps cut aspirin dosing to the appropriate lowest dose (81mg in most patients).

Want the original? See Collins R et al. for the Antithrombotic Trialists’ (ATT) Collaboration. Aspirin in the primary and secondary prevention of vascular disease: Collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data from randomised trials. Lancet 2009 May 30; 373:1849. We will post the appropriate link after publication to make it easier.

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