ASPIRIN could save 40,000 more lives each year worldwide if more people at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke took it, doctors said. An analysis of nearly 300 clinical trials of aspirin and other "antiplatelet" drugs that help to prevent blood clots confirmed that aspirin reduces heart attacks and strokes in susceptible patients. But only about half of the people who could benefit from aspirin and anti-platelet therapy receive it.
"This study shows that aspirin is beneficial in an even wider range of conditions than previously believed," said Dr Coin Baigent of Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC), who led the study. "If we could get those patients treated we could says an extra 40,000 lives a year," he told.
Aspirin and anti-platelet drugs are normally given to patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke to prevent a recurrence. But Baigent and his team found the treatment could also help prevent an initial heart attack or stroke in people at high risk because they suffer from diabetes, angina or a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Although patients are getting it if they have had a heart attack or previous stroke there is a vast range of patients out there who haven't yet had such an event but who can be identified as high-risk," he added.
He attributed the under-use of aspirin, one of the world's most popular drugs, to a lack of clear guidelines. Aspirin can also cause stomach problems such as bleeding and ulcers, which could also explain why it is not more widely used. The study is one of the largest international overviews of a disease treatment. It involved hundreds of trials with 200,000 patients. The researchers found that aspirin and anti-platelet therapy reduced the risk of a serious heart attack or stroke by a quarter and of non-fatal heart attack by a third. It also cut less serious strokes by a quarter.