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Daily dose of aspirin, is it good or bad?

17th October 2008

New research by a team from Dundee University has suggested that aspirin should not routinely be used to prevent heart attacks in people with diabetes.

Researchers studied 1,300 adults with no symptoms of heart disease and found that the drug, which can cause bleeding in the stomach, had no benefit.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, goes against guidelines which advocate people with diabetes use aspirin to counter the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Study leader Professor Jill Belch said aspirin was one of the most common causes of hospital admission for gastrointestinal bleeding.

She added: "We have got a bit ahead of ourselves with aspirin. We need to think again about using it for primary prevention."

However, she stressed the drug was beneficial in people who had already had a heart attack or stroke.

Evidence has shown that in people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, or have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, aspirin can reduce the risk of future events by around 25%.

However, in recent years doctors have begun to focus on people who have not yet developed cardiovascular disease, but are at high-risk of having it in the future - such as people with diabetes.

Two million people over 40 have diabetes in the UK and some 80% die of cardiovascular disease including strokes and heart attacks.

Professor Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it would be worth revisiting the guidelines but that patients should not panic or stop taking aspirin.


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