Daily aspirin is a headache

Every now and then there is a call for healthy people to take a daily dose of a pharmaceutical drug in order to prevent a disease of some description. One of those drugs touted as a daily disease preventer has been aspirin but now a large study has suggested that for healthy people a daily aspirin may do more harm than good.

Aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) was originally isolated from the bark of the white willow tree. It has been a pharmaceutical phenomenon and has not only relieved many a headache but is used to thin the blood and therefore reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular events. For this reason it was one of the five pharmaceuticals including a statin and three blood pressure lowering drugs) proposed to be part of a “polypill” that was estimated by its advocates to halve the rates of heart disease and stroke.

To establish the effect of taking aspirin daily these researchers analysed data on more than 100 000 people, gathered in nine clinical trials, making this the most extensive study so far to examine the effect of daily aspirin on people with no history of heart disease.

The results showed that while one cardiovascular disease instance was prevented for every 120 people, one in 73 developed severe internal bleeding over the same period. They also found that did not reduce risk of death.

The conclusion of these researchers was that for healthy people routine use of aspirin as a preventative is not warranted and that any decision to use aspirin should be made on a case by case basis as judged by health practitioners.

It all comes back to the basic and primary principle of medicine: first do no harm. If a drug, or medicine of any sort, has side-effects of any sort then it would seem foolish to advocate its use in healthy people. This might not make marketers happy, but it will warm the hearts of those with a genuine interest in health.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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