Daily aspirin therapy can help prevent heart attacks and even protect against some forms of cancer, but stopping the therapy after long-term use may put people with a history of heart disease at a significantly increased risk of cardiac events.
Daily low-dose aspirin therapy is a standard secondary preventative therapy for the prevention of cardiovascular events. However, many patients discontinue therapy.
A study published earlier this year in The Lancet that involved more than 25,000 patients who had been on daily low-dose aspirin therapy for at least four years, found that these patients had a 21 percent reduced risk of dying of cancer compared to patients who were taking a placebo. It also found that dying from any cause – not just cancer – was 10 percent lower for people taking one low-dose aspirin per day.
A new study, published online this week in the British Medical Journal, found that patients who discontinue their aspirin therapy are putting themselves at greater risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
For the study, researchers compared 1,222 cases of patients who stopped aspirin therapy and died from a heart attack or coronary heart disease, compared with 5,000 patients in a control group. Aspirin had been discontinued in 12.2 percent of cases and 11 percent of controls. The results translate into four additional cardiac events each year for every 1,000 patients who discontinue aspirin therapy.
“Reducing the number of patients who discontinue low-dose aspiring could have a major impact on the benefit obtained with low-dose aspirin in the general population,” the authors wrote.