A trade group representing aspirin makers agrees with the government's caution that aspirin may do more harm than good in some patients who want to reduce heart-attack risk, and that more research is needed.
Dr. Thomas Bryant, president of the Aspirin Foundation, said Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration is "eminently sensible" in its view that widescale promotion of aspirin to reduce coronary risk would be premature.Taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks may increase chances of dying of other things, especially hemorrhagic strokes, the FDA said in a commentary in Friday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Findings released in January indicated that taking an aspirin every other day reduced the risk of first, non-fatal heart attacks by 47 percent in 11,000 male doctors over five years, compared with 11,000 who took a non-aspirin substitute.
The report helped boost nationwide aspirin sales by 41 percent to about 190 million tablets in the first week of February, although sales later tailed off to about the level of the previous year, according to figures from Nielsen Marketing Research.
The FDA persuaded aspiring manufacturers in March to hold off advertising aspirin's effects at reducing first heart attacks, and the Washington, D.C.-based foundation knew the FDA planned to publish its views this week, Bryant said.
Aspirin tends to promote bleeding by reducing the ability of blood platelets to help form clots. Heart attacks usually occur when clots lodge in the arteries feeding the heart and deprive the heart muscle of blood.
But aspirin may increase health risks for people who already have clotting problems, or for those who have high blood pressure, which puts them at increased risk for hemorrhagic strokes, the FDA said.
Strokes are the result of brain damage caused by bleeding in the brain or by blood clots. Hemorrhagic strokes are those caused by bleeding.
The FDA commentary pointed to 10 hemorrhagic strokes recorded among the 11,000 subjects taking aspirin in the study, compared with two such strokes among 11,000 subjects taking the substitute.