Man, those aspirin supporters must be getting really desperate nowadays.
I guess when you have a steady stream of bad news about a drug, particularly one you want just about everyone on (“Could painkillers end your family line?," 11/17/2010; "Kill the pain — and your hearing," 3/15/2010; "Daily aspirin could have no benefit," 11/25/2009 — and that’s just a small sampling of e-Tips coverage over the last couple years), you need to cling to whatever small pieces of good news you can find.
Even if it amounts to some pretty serious grasping at straws.
The other day, a Yahoo! News headline proclaimed "Aspirin May Protect Against Colorectal Cancer." The power of that headline was somewhat diminished, though, by the sheepish addition: "But Only In Certain People."
The story gets even less amazing upon reading the article.
Because, you see, it details that those "certain people" are those with high levels of a particularly inflammatory marker. In the study that prompted the article, people with the highest levels of this marker were 60 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer than people with the lowest levels.
Oh, and the study didn’t actually have anything to do with giving anyone aspirin. It just concluded that aspirin might help those people bring the inflammatory marker down. That’s it.
The same day we were treated to all this speculation, a story of another study came out. This one did, in fact, involve people actually taking aspirin. And the news isn’t as sunny as the "hey, maybe aspirin might help" story is.
This one, published in the journal Circulation, found that people taking low doses of aspirin for its heavily marketed heart protection may be at increased risk for stomach bleeding. People taking aspirin along with other common drugs like clopidogrel (Plavix) could be at even higher risk of stomach bleeding as well as bleeding of the first part of the small intestine.
Researchers looked at all cases of stomach bleeding in the UK over the course of seven years. In total, they examined the cases of 2,049 people between the ages of 40 and 84. They found that people taking any daily dose of aspirin had an almost doubled risk of stomach bleeding as compared to people not taking aspirin. People taking aspirin and Plavix were 3 to 4 times more likely to experience stomach bleeding.
A raised bleeding risk also came with combining aspirin with other drugs like ibuprofen and warfarin.
One of the researchers highlighted that this risk wasn’t coming with any sort of abuse of the drug — "full compliance with aspirin [recommendations] will probably double the risk of major bleeding."
So there you have it — one day, two stories about aspirin, but only one with data and results that say anything real. So, sorry, aspirin pushers — you haven’t won any fans this round.