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New report confirms aspirin's cardioprotective benefits far outweigh risks in wide array of patients

MORRISTOWN, N.J., April 12, 2004 -- A paper published in the current issue of Cardiovascular Reviews & Reports demonstrates that the benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks when used for prevention of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in patients determined to be at sufficient risk. This conclusion is based on two meta-analyses of secondary and primary prevention trials utilizing low-dose aspirin.
The meta-analyses, which reviewed the findings of more than 60,000 patients taking low-dose aspirin, support the more widespread use of aspirin in sufficiently at-risk patients, according to Steven M. Weisman, PhD, the paper's lead author.

"The evidence is clear: the benefits of aspirin clearly outweigh the risks when used appropriately," Dr. Weisman comments. "Aspirin's favorable benefit- to-risk ratio has been amply demonstrated in clinical trials, and has been widely recognized in professional guidelines supporting its utility in patients who have previously had a heart attack, as well as those who are at elevated risk of a first heart attack. Given the sheer numbers of people who could benefit from aspirin therapy, there is a public health imperative demanding the broader use of this life-saving medication."

Aspirin has been approved by the FDA for a number of uses, including reducing the risk of recurrent ischemic stroke and stroke after transient ischemic attack; for suspected acute myocardial infarction (MI); for prevention of MI in patients with unstable angina pectoris or chronic stable angina pectoris; and for use in some revascularization procedures in selected patients.

Weighing benefits and risks

Whereas most adverse effects associated with long-term aspirin use are minor and infrequent, serious events including gastrointestinal (GI) complications and hemorrhagic stroke can occur. Dr. Weisman and his colleagues calculated that for every 67 patients treated to protect against a subsequent MI or stroke, one life could be saved with low-dose aspirin. Conversely, 100 patients would need to be treated to cause one serious GI bleed.

"Our evaluation suggests 1.5 lives can be saved through aspirin use for secondary prevention for every GI bleed attributed to aspirin use," Dr. Weisman asserts. He cites other analyses, including studies of aspirin for both primary and secondary prevention, which similarly conclude that two recurrent strokes could be prevented for every one GI hemorrhage caused.

Today, approximately 100 million people may be at risk of developing coronary heart disease, and as many as 62 million Americans already have some form of heart disease and may be at risk of experiencing a coronary event. Yet, only about one-third of those that could benefit from a physician-directed aspirin regimen are on one.

Source: Bayer Consumer Care

Posted: April 2004