Is Aspirin Really a ‘Wonder Drug’?

Is Aspirin Really a ‘Wonder Drug’?Is Aspirin Really a ‘Wonder Drug’?

It is an effective pain reliever and has been linked to reduced risk of a number of health conditions, including heart attack, stroke and cancer. But is aspirin really the “wonder drug” many health experts claim it is?

Earlier this month, it was announced that researchers from the UK would be embarking on the biggest clinical trial of aspirin to date - the Add-Aspirin phase 3 trial - investigating whether the drug is effective for preventing cancer recurrence through a study of around 11,000 people.

Cancer is just one in a long line of illnesses that aspirin may combat. But in the midst of potential health benefits comes a number of risks, a fact some health professionals believe is often overlooked.

“Because it’s been around a long time people think ‘it must be safe and it can’t do me any harm,’” Prof. Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation in the UK, told The Independent.

Early clinical trials of aspirin found it was an effective treatment for pain, fever and inflammation. It is believed the drug produces these effects by inhibiting the production of pain-producing chemicals called prostaglandins. As such, aspirin is commonly used to help ease headache, muscle pain, toothaches and common colds, as well as swelling in arthritis.

More recently, however, researchers have discovered aspirin may also be an effective blood thinner, preventing the formation of blood clots in the arteries by blocking the production of a prostaglandin called thromboxane, which plays a key role in blood clotting.

As such, studies have shown daily aspirin therapy may lower the risk for heart attack and stroke, and it is often recommended for adults at high risk for these conditions.

However, as with any drug, there is a risk for side effects with regular aspirin use.

One of the most severe side effects is gastrointestinal bleeding, which can raise the risk of developing a stomach ulcer. If one already has a stomach ulcer, taking aspirin could cause further bleeding and be potentially life-threatening.

Aspirin may also interact with other drugs and increase risk of internal bleeding, particularly drugs with anti-clotting properties. Some individuals are allergic to aspirin, with people who have asthma most at risk. Other side effects include headache, nausea and vomiting, tinnitus and bruising.

Despite the potential risks, however, aspirin has become one of the most widely used over-the-counter drugs around the globe; more than 100 million standard aspirin tablets are produced every year.