Daily aspirin unlikely to help healthy older people live longer, study finds

Aspirin tablets and a bottle

Aspirin tablets and a bottle

According to principal investigator of the study, John McNeil, who is head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, the results of the trial will result in a rethinking of global guidelines relating to the use of aspirin to prevent common conditions associated with ageing. "The concern has been uncertainty about whether aspirin is beneficial for otherwise healthy older people without those conditions".

Regardless, the findings raise serious questions as to whether otherwise healthy older people should routinely take low-dose aspirin.

The researchers found an increase in the number of cases of serious internal bleeding among the aspirin takers (3.8%) compared to the placebo group (2.8%).

"Continuing follow-up of the ASPREE participants is crucial, particularly since longer term effects on risks for outcomes such as cancer and dementia may differ from those during the study to date", said Evan Hadley, M.D., director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology.

A total of 19,114 people, mostly over the age of 70, were enrolled in the study. Researchers at Monash University in Australia engaged nearly 20,000 people in the country and in U.S. with an average age of 74.

The ASPREE (Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial found an aspirin a day did not prolong life free of disability, or significantly reduce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke among participants - "with little difference found between the placebo and aspirin groups". "This study shows why it is so important to conduct this type of research, so that we can gain a fuller picture of aspirin's benefits and risks among healthy older persons".

He puts his good health down to being active and in a position to make a contribution, like taking part in clinical trials.

Of those taking the medicine, 5.9% died during the study compared to 5.2% of the placebo group.

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"Elderly people can make a contribution to society and this is a good way of doing it", he said. They remind patients to consult their GP before changing their aspirin regime.

Most volunteers had to be at least 70 years old. Those on the pills on medical advice were not assessed in this study.

First developed in 1897, aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

Half were given a daily low-dose aspirin for five years.

In the UK, GPs generally do not advise aspirin for pensioners who have not previously suffered cardiovascular problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

The ASPREE (ASpirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial involved 19,000 participants from Australia and the U.S., making it the largest and most comprehensive study to look at whether there are any health benefits to taking 100 milligrams of aspirin a day for older people. They were ten followed up for the next 4.7 years on an average.

Treatment with 100 milligrams of aspirin per day did not affect the chances a person would live longer free from dementia or disability, researchers found. "In other words, how long people spent in a healthy state", Professor McNeil said.

"What we've demonstrated is that there really is no significant benefit of being on a low dose daily aspirin if you're healthy and 70 and older, and that the risk of bleeding outweigh the benefits".

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