Daily aspirin behind more than 3,000 deaths a year, study suggests

13 Jun

The study involved 3,166 patients who had previously had a stroke or heart attack, most of whom were prescribed aspirin.

For patients aged under 65, the annual rate of disabling or fatal bleeding was less than 0.5 per cent, rising to 1.5 per cent in those aged 75 to 84 and nearly 2.5 per cent for patients aged 85 or over.  Over the decade, those over 75 had six times risk of fatal bleeds, and ten fold increased risk of suffering bleeds which were either deadly or disabling, compared with younger patients, the study found. The proportion of survivors experiencing a new or worse disability rose from three per cent for those under 75 to 25 per cent among older patients.

Those without a history of heart attack or stroke should avoid taking aspirin as they got older, he suggested.

While the drugs had “tiny benefits” for such patients in mid-life, in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, the dangers increase with age, he said.

“You would probably be advised to stop it in your late 60s or around 70 because at that point the risk of bleeding does start to take off – the risks may well outweigh the benefits,” he said.

Doctors stressed that no one should come off their drugs quickly or without consulting their doctor.

“Wean yourself off, rather than stopping suddenly,” said Prof Rothwell, warning that coming off the drugs quickly would create a very high risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Dr Tim Chico, consultant cardiologist, University of Sheffield, said the risks of aspirin were often understimated. “Although bleeding is a well-recognised side effect of aspirin, this drug is still seen by many people as harmless, perhaps because of how easily it can be bought over the counter, “ he said. “Prescription of any drug is a balance between the benefits of the medication against its risks, and aspirin is no different,” he said.   

No comments yet

Leave a Reply