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Once in a while the question whether or not low-dose aspirin should be recommended for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease is put on the table, analyzed and debated, but still there is no clear-cut recommendation. Patrono has recently provided another overview on this topic [1]. Low-dose aspirin has been shown to be effective in preventing about one-fifth of atherothrombotic vascular complications (non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, or vascular death) in a meta-analysis of 16 secondary prevention trials in patients with previous myocardial infarction, stroke, or transient cerebral ischemia. This corresponds to an absolute reduction of about 10-20 per 1000 patients in the yearly incidence of non-fatal events, and to a smaller, but still definite, reduction in vascular death. Against this benefit, the absolute increase in major extracranial bleeding complications (mostly, gastrointestinal) is 20- to 50-fold smaller, depending on age and sex. Hence, for secondary prevention, the benefits of antiplatelet therapy substantially exceed the risks. For primary prevention, the balance between vascular events avoided and major bleeds caused by aspirin is substantially uncertain because the risks without aspirin, and hence the absolute benefits of antiplatelet prophylaxis, are at least an order of magnitude lower than in secondary prevention. For many people without pre-existing vascular disease, the cardiovascular benefits of adding long-term aspirin to other, safer, forms of primary prevention (e.g. statins and antihypertensive drugs) are likely to be of similar magnitude as the hazards [2].


  • Amos Pines
    Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel


  1. Patrono C. Low-dose aspirin in primary prevention: cardioprotection, chemoprevention, both, or neither? Eur Heart J 2013;34:3403-11
  2. Baigent C, Blackwell L, Collins R, et al. Antithrombotic Trialists (ATT) Collaboration. Aspirin in the primary and secondary prevention of vascular disease: collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data from randomised trials. Lancet 2009;373:18491860
  3. US Preventive Services Task Force. Aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med 2009;150:396404
  4. Perk J, De Backer G, Gohlke H, et al. European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice (version 2012). Eur Heart J 2012;33:1635-701
  5. Puhan MA, Singh S, Weiss CO, et al. Evaluation of the benefits and harms of aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular events: A comparison of quantitative approaches. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2013 Nov
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