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Death by aspirin

MagazineApril 2009 (Vol. 20 Issue 1)Death by aspirin

Aspirin is the ultimate lifestyle drug, and is seen as one of our great allies in warding off heart disease

Aspirin is the ultimate lifestyle drug, and is seen as one of our great allies in warding off heart disease. With the encouragement of health guardians around the world, we pop 100 billion pills of this 'just-in-case' drug every year, and 37 per cent of them are taken by healthy people as part of their daily health regime.

It's the inexpensive and readily available magic bullet that can protect us against cardiovascular disease, mankind's greatest killer. The humble aspirin can, according to its proponents, reduce blood pressure and help thin the blood, so lowering the risk of stroke and heart attack-two functions that today dwarf its original purpose as a painkiller, an anti-inflammatory and antipyretic (fever-reducer).

Best of all, it appears to be a relatively benign drug. The Ameri-can Association of Poison Control Centers receives reports of just 59 aspirin deaths in the US each year, while researchers put the mortal-ity rate for all painkilling, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen at around 7600 deaths a year (Scand J Rheum Suppl, 1992; 92: 21-4).

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