Study finds aspirin might not improve peripheral vascular disease

Though aspirin has long been a treatment method for people suffering from peripheral vascular disease (PVD), new research from the University of Florida (UF) shows that it actually may not provide cardiovascular benefits.

In their study, published April 12 in the journal PLOS One, UF Health researchers in Gainesville looked at 11 aspirin therapy trials that included more than 6,500 PVD patients in total. The average age of patients in the study was 62. Sixty percent were women, 32 percent had diabetes and 67 percent were current or former smokers.

Results showed that aspirin had no significant effect on death rates, stroke, heart attack and other major cardiac events. This is the most updated analysis that compares medical outcomes to PVD patients using aspirin.

"Among patients with peripheral vascular disease, many of them may not be deriving the benefits from aspirin that they expect to be getting," said Anthony A. Bavry, MD, an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine and a cardiologist at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville, in a statement.

Many patients use aspirin as a way to prevent blood clots, which can reduce the risk of having a stroke or heart attack. However, the drug can also have a damaging effect because blood that doesn’t clot easily can increase the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke and internal bleeding.

In the UF study, results showed that after about six years, 7.7 percent of PVD patients taking aspirin died, compared with 8.5 percent in a control group. The incidence of stroke was 3.2 percent among aspirin users and 4 percent among those who didn’t take it. Heart attacks plagued 3.5 percent of aspirin users and 5.5 of non-users.

However, the study didn’t give a clear analysis of aspirin’s role in causing major bleeding. There was virtually no difference among aspirin users and nonusers. The authors conclude that future trials could help clarify the trend and confirm the other findings in the trial.

"Aspirin might not be a miracle drug for certain patients,” said Ahmed N. Mahmoud, MD, an author on the study and a cardiology fellow in the department of medicine at UF, in a statement. “We need to reconsider the evidence, and see who benefits from aspirin therapy and who does not.”