Safety coated aspirin could negate benefits to the heart

A new study published in the scientific journal Circulation raises doubts about the effectiveness of “safety coated” aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes. Purportedly the enteric coating prevents the aspirin from causing bleeding in the stomach of users, allowing the aspirin to be absorbed in the small intestine.

However, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, chairman of pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the studys authors, told The New York Times that coating aspirin conceals its effects for some people, and that there is scarce evidence that it protects the stomach better than uncoated.

He said in a statement accompanying the article: These studies question the value of coated, low-dose aspirin. This product adds cost to treatment, without any clear benefit. Indeed, it may lead to the false diagnosis of aspirin resistance and the failure to provide patients with an effective therapy.

Aspirin resistance a myth?

The study was partly financed by Bayer to prove that aspirin resistance was a myth. In the ’90s and early 2000s the idea that a significant amount of the population was aspirin resistant was a popular idea. The authors of the recent study claim that, out of 400 people who were examined, they found not one case of true aspirin resistance. The researchers said that the coating on the aspirin made it seem on tests that the drug wasn’t working, because it interfered with the way the drug entered the body.

Bayer was not happy with the conclusions of the study, a large part of their business is safety coated aspirin, and said that previous studies had shown enteric-coated aspirin has been shown to stop blood platelets from sticking together in comparable levels as uncoated. It’s this ability of aspirin to stop platelets from sticking, which makes it a preventative measure against heart attacks and stroke.

If the results of the study are found to be true, it could mean that a number of patients are able to receive an aspirin regime, which is much more cost friendly than prescription drug treatments such as Plavix.

Some information provided by the U.C. Berkley Wellness Letter also points to a study that found safety coated aspirin to be ineffective. This study, published in the journal Stroke by Irish researchers, “found that coating reduces the absorption and bioavailability of low-dose aspirin, and thus it may be less effective in inhibiting blood clotting, especially in heavier people.” The study found specifically that a 75-milligram enteric aspirin, close in size to the U.S. 81-milligram “baby” aspirin, was equal to 50 milligrams of uncoated aspirin.

Advice on using aspirin from the U.C. Berkley Wellness Letter:

  • Don’t take safety coated aspirin for immediate pain relief.
  • Don’t think of safety coated aspirin as safer than regular aspirin and subsequently take higher dosages.
  • If regular aspirin causes heartburn or stomach upset talk to your doctor to make sure that there isn’t an underlying problem.
  • Small-dose “baby” aspirin is only available in coated form. If this concerns you the Wellness Letter suggests cutting up a regular aspirin and taking a fourth every day, or one-half every other day. Chewable aspirin may also an option.
  • Don’t discontinue taking a daily dose of aspirin without consulting your doctor.

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