A $50 million clinical trial, funded by the US-based National Institutes of Health, is being conducted in Australia to determine whether the drug aspirin can delay the onset of physical and mental illnesses in older people. The aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial is the largest clinical trial ever conducted on our shores.
The study hopes to find that the little white pill may prove to be a secret weapon against more than just headaches and hangovers. It is believed that Aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties might delay the onset of dementia and prevent certain types of cancer, as well as diseases such as deafness and blindness.
More than 2000 Australian GPs and 19,000 participants have collaborated on the randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study, which is exploring the possibility of whether aspirin can extend an older person’s ‘disability-free’ years – keeping them more active and out of nursing homes for longer.
“If we can delay the onset of dementia by just five years, we’ll halve the number of people in Australia with dementia”, said Head of Aged and Residential Care Services at Austin Health, Associate Professor Michael Woodward.
If the trial is successful, it could help relieve a massive financial burden on taxpayers. The annual cost of caring for the estimated 350,000 Australians living with dementia is around $7 billion dollars. This figure is expected to triple by 2050.
While there are side effects such as stomach bleeding and ulcers, the potential upside is significant. “Increasingly with the elderly, the important issue is how to keep them as healthy as can be”, said the study’s chief investigator in Australia, Professor John McNeil. “This has become a priority for medicine.”
As part of the trial, participants will make yearly reports to GPs, with results expected in 2018.
Are you excited at the possibility that an inexpensive household drug could prevent the onset of physical and mental illnesses? Or are you wondering why this hasn’t been looked into prior to now? As aspirin is an affordable drug, are you sceptical that ‘Big Pharma’ could just rebrand it and sell it for considerably more? What are your thoughts?