MILLIONS of People were last night told that taking an aspirin every day could be unnecessary and even damage their health. A study found a daily dose of the “wonder pill” did nothing to aid healthy people aged over 70.
They were also at “significantly” increased risk of serious internal bleeding.
Those who had not previously suffered a stroke or heart attack and did not take aspirin were more likely to live longer.
Experts said the findings showed many older people may be taking the medicine “unnecessarily” and that it is “really of very little benefit.”
Doctors last night said the findings “emphatically” showed there was no reason to use aspirin to prevent disease in healthy people and warned it may harm.
Aspirin has long been used as a preventative measure to help reduce the risk of blood clots in patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke.
Lead researcher Professor John McNeil, of Monash University, Australia, said the findings showed many older people may be taking the medicine “unnecessarily”.
He warned that the results do not apply to people with existing conditions such as a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, where aspirin is recommended to prevent further illness.
Experts last night urged people to take medical advice from their before deciding whether or not to use aspirin regularly.
Peter Rothwell, professor of neurology at the Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia at the University of Oxford, said taking the tablets if healthy, over the age of 70 and have not had a previous heart attack or stroke, is “really of very little benefit”.
He also advised against self-medicating in the absence of a “definite medical indication” and said those who have been taking it should not stop taking it “overnight”.
The results of the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly trial were published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Ageing said: “Clinical guidelines note the benefits of aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in persons with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease.
“The concern has been uncertainty about whether aspirin is beneficial for otherwise healthy older people. 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.”
Consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said: “For the treatment of heart disease, or for those who have suffered heart attacks, aspirin has been a ‘wonder drug’.
But for patients without these conditions, this interesting new research shows it is not necessarily beneficial and actually appears to cause more harm in terms of the risk of serious bleeding.”