"People who have had a primary event, meaning they've had a history of heart attack or stroke, or if they've had an artery opening procedure like coronary bypass or coronary angioplasty-- they clearly benefit from prophylactic with low-dose aspirin," said Dr. Terry Barks, Pharmacy Specialist at Mercy Hospital in Springfield.
About 40 million Americans take aspirin as a preventative measure, ranging in dosage from around 75 to 325 milligrams in strength.
But a new report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that after examining major studies, the "FDA has concluded that the data do not support the use of aspirin as a preventative medication by people who have not had a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular problems."
Dr. Barks said historically, people who have not had a prior event who are low to moderate risk were were advised against taking aspirin.
"But people who are deemed to be at high risk for a primary event or a first time occurrence, many of them with or without their physician's recommendation were taking aspirin to prevent that first event," said Barks. "And that's the group of people that the FDA release says should not be taking it."
Taking daily aspirin can pose severe side effects, including bleeding into the brain and stomach.
"There is evidence that people who have not had the primary event do benefit from the aspirin," said Barks. "But that benefit is offset by the risks that go along with it, so there's no net benefit."
Barks said he recommends patients reconsider their use of aspirin.
"For other people who just thought it was a good idea, they should probably cut it out and then discuss with their physician," he said. "For people who are taking it on the advice of their physician, they need to continue to take it, until such time that they've had an occasion to talk with the doctor."
Barks said there have been multiple studies on the effectiveness of aspirin in preventing primary events-- and so far, none have shown conclusive benefits.