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Aspirin Aids Heart Patients, Study Says

Taken within two days of bypass surgery, it could save 25,000 lives a year, researcher suggests.

October 24, 2002|From Reuters

BOSTON — Patients who take aspirin within two days of heart bypass surgery dramatically reduce their health risks, researchers said Wednesday, in a finding they say could save 25,000 lives worldwide every year.

The conclusion challenges conventional wisdom that has kept bypass surgery patients off the less expensive, generic painkiller amid fears it could lead to dangerous bleeding.

Such thinking is not only wrong but also probably contributes to about 9,000 deaths each year in the United States alone, according to a $35-million study published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

The study's authors found that giving heart bypass patients aspirin within 48 hours of surgery cut the death rate by 68% during the study period.

The chances of stroke decreased by 62%, the likelihood of kidney problems fell by 60%, and the risk of developing a heart attack was nearly cut in half.

Aspirin substantially mitigates fatal and nonfatal damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and intestines, said the team of researchers, led by Dennis Mangano of the San Francisco-based Ischemia Research and Education Foundation.

"Contrary to current belief, aspirin therapy was safe and was not associated with an increased risk of bleeding, gastritis, infection, or impaired wound healing," the researchers said.

Editors of the Journal said a formal clinical trial is needed before aspirin therapy becomes routine, and Robert Bonow, president of the American Heart Assn., said there was still reason for caution.

But Mangano said that, instead of waiting five years for a clinical trial to be done, doctors should apply his team's findings immediately -- a move he said would save 25,000 lives a year worldwide and prevent 50,000 complications at very little cost.

Mangano's foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that does clinical trials for the government and pharmaceutical companies. It used income from those trials to fund the aspirin study, Mangano said, because no drug company is going to pay for a study of an inexpensive generic drug like aspirin.

Eric Topol of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation called the findings "quite striking" and said that, until it is shown to be hazardous, early aspirin use after bypass surgery should become standard practice.

"The benefits appear to be important and overriding," Topol wrote in a Journal editorial.

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