Aspirin is most commonly used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory, but its ability to treat a range of medical conditions is frequently discussed in the healthcare industry.
And according to the latest claims, aspirin is just as effective as the popular blood thinner warfarin as a treatment for heart failure patients.
A major international study found that both drugs were able to prevent strokes, although they both carried their own risks.
In the end the research team came to the conclusion that there was no reason to prescribe patients with warfarin over aspirin.
To read the latest edition of Healthcare Global, click here
- Memory problems reduce with exercise and computer games
- World’s first degree in plastic surgery launches in UK
- Facebook adds ‘organ donor’ status to profiles
As part of the study, 2,305 heart failure patients spread across 11 countries were given daily doses of either warfarin of 325mg of aspirin.
In total the study lasted 10 years and the progress of the patients was reviewed every six years on average.
It was discovered that when combined, the risk of death, cerebral haemorrhage or a stroke was 7.47 percent a year in those taking warfarin and 7.93 percent a year in those taking aspirin.
In the warfarin group the number of strokes was half that of the aspirin group, but there were twice as many major bleeds.
“Since the overall risks and benefits are similar for aspirin and warfarin, the patient and his or her doctor are free to choose the treatment that best meets their particular medical needs,” commented Dr Shunichi Homma, the lead researcher.
“However, given the convenience and low cost of aspirin, many may go this route.”
The study was funded by the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke in America, and Dr Walter Koroshetz, the organisation’s deputy director, added: “Patients and their physicians now have critical information to help select the optimum treatment approach.
“The key decision will be whether to accept the increased risk of stroke with aspirin, or the increased risk of primarily gastrointestinal hemorrhage with warfarin.”
Meanwhile, Ellen Mason, the Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation charity also said: “Warfarin and aspirin each have their own relative benefits and risks.
“Yet, this research shows that neither has an advantage over the other overall in preventing stroke or death in the long term.
“This finding should give patients reassurance when discussing their medication with their heart failure specialist, and more freedom to choose the treatment which works best for them.”
She added: “However, this research does not apply to people with an irregular heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation.
“People with this condition will most likely continue to require warfarin to prevent stroke.”
Heart failure is thought to affect six million people in the US and 900,000 people in the UK.
The results of the study have now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Healthcare Global magazine is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.