The whole truth about aspirin: a miracle pill or a potentially dangerous substance

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The whole truth about aspirin: a miracle pill or a potentially dangerous substance

Scientists answered the main questions about the drug, which can be found in any home first aid kit.

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40 years ago, scientists declared a cheap painkiller a miracle cure – relieves pain, prevents heart disease, thins the blood and prevents clogged arteries, writes the Daily Mail.

After that, doctors immediately included aspirin in the recommendations – the drug was recommended to all people over 55 years of age as a prevention of a heart attack.

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8 years ago, aspirin gained its reputation as a miracle cure – the drug was also called one of the best drugs in the fight against cancer because of its ability to reduce the level of inflammation that damages cells in our body. Again, doctors began to recommend a daily preventive dose.

As a result, millions of people today take aspirin daily at low doses of 75 to 100 mg per day to prevent heart attacks and cancer. Others take aspirin in high doses (from 300 mg per day) for headaches and other pains, as well as fever.

About 40 thousand tons of aspirin are produced annually in the world. Today, however, the “shining star” of the miracle pill seems to be under threat. New research is increasingly warning that aspirin also has some pretty serious side effects – if used daily, the drug can lead to the development of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.

History of the drug

Aspirin is based salicylic acid is a natural substance found in willow bark.

The first references to the substance are found in writings 4000 years ago – it is described as an analgesic for rheumatism. The ancient Greek father of medicine Hippocrates recommended the substance for pain, childbirth and fever.

Another source of salicylic acid is the meadowsweet – back in the 14th century, the plant was considered sacred to the British Druids and was mentioned by Chaucer.

The first scientific study of willow bark was carried out by the English priest Edward Stone back in the 1700s. In his work, he noted that he successfully used willow bark to treat fever in fifty of his parishioners.

However, the first laboratory version of the ingredient acetylsalicylic acid as a pain reliever was developed by a German chemist, Dr. Felix Hoffmann, in 1897. In fact, this discovery was the beginning of today's pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, the compound was first registered as aspirin.

Can aspirin prevent cancer?

After World War II, doctors around the world began to notice that patients who regularly took aspirin from chronic pain, there were lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

A 1980 study by Oxford University professor and epidemiologist Richard Peto showed that people who took aspirin on a regular basis had a one-quarter reduced risk of death and vascular disease.

And in 2014, professor of epidemiology from Queen Mary University of London, Jack Cusick published a study stating that more than 130,000 people in the UK could have avoided dying from cancer if all these people aged 50 to 64 took low doses of aspirin daily.

Studies have shown that the greatest effect was observed in cancer of the intestines, stomach and esophagus. At the same time, the results were significantly lower in prostate, breast, and lung cancers.

However, already in 2016, a group of scientists from the UK, Spain and the USA analyzed about 40 studies and found that taking small doses of aspirin daily leads to a risk of bleeding, which exceeds its benefit in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Since then, the number of such studies has only grown. As a result, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has stated that people over 60 years of age should stop taking low-dose aspirin daily.

The whole truth about aspirin: a miracle pill or a potentially dangerous substance

Everything is true about aspirin: miracle pill or potentially dangerous substance

Bleeding risk

Back in 2009, the USPSTF recommended that doctors prescribe low-dose aspirin as a cancer and heart disease prevention strategy. However, that has changed and the USPSTF now believes that the risk of internal bleeding due to aspirin is higher than previously thought. As a result, people aged 40 to 59 are advised to take a daily low-dose aspirin only if they have a genetic predisposition to heart disease.

At the same time, people aged 75 years and older are not recommended at all taking aspirin is of little use at this age. At the same time, people who take aspirin daily are urged to be careful when getting various injuries and cuts.

In addition, the USPSTF warns that aspirin can not only cause internal intestinal bleeding, but also cause ulcers in the intestines, damaging the stomach and intestinal mucosa.

A study by Australian scientists, which was attended by almost 17 thousand people aged 70 years and older, lasted 4.5 years. Researchers found that people who consumed low doses of aspirin daily had a significantly increased risk of serious injury and even death after a fall.

Scientists suggest that this may be due to the anticoagulant effect of the drug: people who fall while taking aspirin may have severe bleeding or bruising, requiring emergency care.

Statins “much safer”?

According to scientists, one solution to the problem could be the daily use of aspirin in small doses only by people with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke – for example, smokers and genetically predisposed patients. The rest of the researchers are strongly advised to take statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs.

These findings are confirmed by a study by Jane Armitage, Professor of Clinical Trials and Epidemiology at the Oxford MRC Population Health Research Unit, in which 15.5 thousand healthy recipients took part with type 2 diabetes.

Study showed that taking a daily low dose of aspirin led to a 12% reduction in the risk of heart problems, but it also led to a corresponding increase in the risk of bleeding.

As these people get older, their risk of cardiovascular disease increases, but so does their risk of bleeding. It is very difficult to find a middle ground where you get more benefit than harm.

In addition, scientists have found inconsistencies in studies that suggest that a daily dose of aspirin can reduce the risk of bowel cancer. In the early stages of the analyzes, a decrease was indeed observed, however, after 7 years of testing, in 2018, scientists did not find any benefit.