The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a review about the association of the medicine aspirin’s use with cardiovascular and bleeding events. It found that the well-known risk that aspirin can cause internal bleeding is as great – or sometimes higher – than the benefits of preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Aspirin thins the blood, helping to prevent blood clots, and is unquestionably a really good drug for protecting people who have already had a heart attack or stroke from having another. However, the 1,000 or so people in these trials had no history of cardiovascular disease.
They were monitored for about a year, during which time they took a daily aspirin or placebo. Among those who took aspirin, there were about 11% fewer heart attacks and strokes but a 43% higher likelihood of a major bleeding episode in the stomach, brain or intestine. The researchers found no effect on cancer. Dr Sean Zheng, academic clinical fellow in cardiology at King’s College London, said that taking a daily aspirin couldn’t be recommended for healthy people, but that there might still be a case for people with a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke, including those with type 2 diabetes. However, it would be important to consider the bleeding risk.