Study Examines Aspirin’s Benefits in Geriatric Population

In an effort to extend the length of a disability-free life for older adults, researchers from Rush University Medical Center are partnering with colleagues from across the United States and Australia in the largest international trial ever sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

The Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) study aims to assess whether aspirin can not only prolong life, but extend a life free of physical disability and/or dementia for healthy older people.

“Aspirin is one of the most commonly used medicines in the world,” Raj Shah, MD, assistant professor of family medicine at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an ASPREE investigator, stated in a press release. “Whether the benefits of taking aspirin to maintain a life free of disability in an older person outweigh the risk of bleeding is a critically important health question to answer.”

To date, little information is available about the overall effects of aspirin in older adults, because most trials focus on middle-aged people. The ASPREE study, for the first time, will determine whether the potential benefits of low-dose aspirin outweigh the risks specifically for people age 70 years and older.

“Because of its proven effectiveness in preventing second events, many doctors have also prescribed aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes in otherwise healthy people,” John McNeil, MBBS, MSc, PhD, FRACP, FAFPHM, head of the Monash School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine in Australia, and also a principal investigator for ASPREE, stated. “However, in the last couple of years, serious doubts have been raised about the evidence supporting this practice, and as a result, editorials in major medical journals have called for this question to be settled.”

The ASPREE study will enroll 6,500 healthy individuals age 70 years and older in the United States and another 12,500 in Australia. All eligible participants will be randomly assigned to take either a low-dose aspirin or a placebo daily for about 5 years.

“The results from the ASPREE study will help healthy older persons work with their doctors to make more informed decisions about whether aspirin should be used to increase life without disability,” Shah said.

Originally developed as a pilot study by Monash University in Australia, the ASPREE study is being conducted in partnership between Monash University, the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the National Institute on Aging.

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