Aspirin 'does not prevent heart attacks'

Taking aspirin regularly does not prevent heart attacks in high-risk patients with diabetes, UK research suggests.

Current guidelines are inconsistent and aspirin is commonly prescribed for the primary prevention of heart disease in patients with diabetes and with peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

For this latest study, the researchers investigated whether aspirin and antioxidants given together or separately could reduce the risk of heart attacks in a group of 1,276 patients, aged 40 and over, with diabetes and PAD.

The patients were randomised to receive either aspirin or placebo, an antioxidant or placebo, aspirin and antioxidant or double placebo, and followed up over eight years.

Overall, no benefit was found from taking either aspirin or antioxidant treatment in the prevention of heart attacks.

The researchers, from the University of Dundee, conclude by voicing their concern at the widespread prescribing of aspirin despite the lack of evidence to support it use in primary prevention of heart attacks in people with diabetes.

BMJ Online 2008

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