Daily aspirin use may do more harm than good, say experts

Health experts are calling for an urgent rethink of the way aspirin is prescribed, amid concerns that those who use the drug daily may be doing themselves more harm than good.

The US Preventive Services Task Force reviewed several studies, which showed that prescribing low doses of aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke could put healthy adults at risk of other serious complications, before making their recommendations for changing the way the drug is treated.

The report found that while low-dose aspirin (81-100 milligrams per dose) could reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke, it also increased the risk of major gastrointestinal bleeding.

Read: Addictive painkiller being ‘dished out like lollies’

YourLifeChoices last year reported on a Monash University-led study that found prolonged daily aspirin use increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding by at least 60 per cent in people aged 70 and over.

In 2019, another study, from scientists at King’s College London and King’s College Hospital, concluded that taking aspirin regularly to prevent heart attacks and strokes could lead to an almost 50 per cent increased risk of major bleeding episodes.

The same mechanism that lets aspirin prevent blood clots from forming can also increase a person’s risk of bleeding, because it prevents blood from clotting at the site of a wound. 

Read: Most common questions pharmacists are asked

The new instructions being called for by the US panel of experts would apply mostly to those aged 60 and under who are considered high risk for heart disease and stroke.

The task force is also encouraging anyone older than 60 to reconsider their daily dose as the bleeding risks increase significantly with age.

“There’s no longer a blanket statement that everybody who’s at increased risk for heart disease, even though they never had a heart attack, should be on aspirin,” Dr Chien-Wen Tseng told the New York Times.

“Aspirin only has a benefit if someone is at increased risk for heart disease. They shouldn’t be starting just because they have reached a certain age.”

Read: Australia set to run out of key pain relief drug due to pandemic

Those who are taking a daily dose of aspirin due to a heart attack, regardless of their age, are still advised to consult with their GP about whether they should continue with the medication.

The Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s official guidelines advise clinicians to ‘exercise caution’ when prescribing aspirin as a preventative measure, as it can increase the risk of bleeding and damage the stomach.

“People with kidney disease, liver damage or haemophilia should consult a doctor before using aspirin,” according to advice on its website.

Have you had a heart attack? Do you take aspirin daily? Are you concerned about the risk of bleeding? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben



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