People over 75 taking daily aspirin after a stroke or heart attack are at higher risk of major - and sometimes fatal - stomach bleeds than previously thought, research in the Lancet shows. Scientists say that, to reduce these risks, older people should also take stomach-protecting PPI pills.
But they insist aspirin has important benefits - such as preventing heart attacks - that outweigh the risks. And they warn that stopping aspirin suddenly can be harmful. Anyone with concerns should speak to a doctor before considering changing medication, they say.
Doctors in the UK generally prescribe daily aspirin (75mg) for life after a person has a stroke or heart attack to help prevent more attacks. But researchers have known for some time that aspirin can increase the risk of stomach bleeds.
Until now, most research involved people under 75, showing that the risk of serious bleeds was low in this group. But with around half the people on lifelong aspirin in the UK now over 75, researchers at Oxford University decided to find out whether the benefits still outweigh the risks in this group.
Their study followed 3,166 patients who had previously had a stroke or heart attack and were prescribed aspirin or similar blood-thinning drugs. They found that, for patients aged under 65, the annual rate of disabling or fatal bleeds was less than 0.5% (around one person in every 200 people taking the medication). Meanwhile, for people aged 75 to 84, this rose to three people having major bleeds in every 200. READ ARTICLE