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29/05/2009

'Keep Taking The Tablets', Says NICHS

A leading medical charity has warned people at risk of heart attack not to stop taking aspirin, after researchers said it should be taken "only by those who had already had a heart attack or a stroke".

The charity is at odds with the new study published in the Lancet medical journal indicated that the risk of bleeding as a result of taking the drug could do more damage, and that it should not be prescribed routinely. Andrew Dougal, Chief Executive of NI Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) pictured here said: "People who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease should not abandon aspirin as a result of reading about one research project in the Press.

"Heart attack and stroke can be fatal, even in a first episode. Instead, doctors should consider using enteric-coated aspirin, which will protect the stomach," he said.

Professor Mahendra Varma, Chairman of NICHS and a consultant cardiologist, said: "No-one should change medication without the advice of their doctor.

"This new evidence should be looked at in the light of all of the research in this area.

"After mature reflection clear guidance should be given to GPs."
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The new study in The Lancet medical journal found that healthy people who take aspirin reduced their already small risk of heart attack or stroke by 12%, while the small risk of internal bleeding increased by a third.

This means there were five fewer non-fatal heart attacks for every 10,000 people treated, but this was offset by a comparable increase in bleeding - one extra stroke and three cases of stomach bleeding per 10,000 people treated.

In the secondary prevention studies - where patients were taking aspirin to prevent a repeat attack - aspirin reduced the chances of serious vascular events by about one-fifth and this benefit clearly outweighed the small risk of bleeding.

The study, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, was headed by Professor Colin Baigent of the Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit at Oxford University.

The professor said: "The latest research does not seem to justify general guidelines advocating the routine use of aspirin in all healthy individuals.

"Drug safety really matters when making recommendations for tens of millions of healthy people.

"We don't have good evidence that, for healthy people, the benefits of long-term aspirin exceed the risks by an appropriate margin."

See: Widespread Use Of Aspirin Slammed

(BMcC/JM)

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