UK & World News
GPs To Stop Giving Aspirin For Heart Condition
Doctors will be told to stop prescribing aspirin for patients with a heart condition that leaves them at high risk of having a stroke as it is ineffective.
More than a million people in the UK suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF) and for decades the cheap and easily accessible tablets were given to help thin the blood.
But now studies have shown that aspirin has little benefit and anticoagulants should be given instead.
Professor Martin Cowie, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: "About 12,000 people in England a year have a disabling stroke because a clot forms in the heart, shoots off and damages the brain.
"In the past we used to use aspirin, but we know that is not an effective treatment.
"Now there are various other option to thin the blood, not just warfarin, and it's important that patients have a chat with their GP or specialist to find out what is most likely to benefit them."
New guidelines for doctors are expected to be published in the coming days by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Fiona Birdseye is delighted that aspirin will no longer be prescribed for AF patients like herself.
Last year she had a transient ischaemic attack or mini-stroke and was put on aspirin to thin her blood. A fortnight later she suffered an actual stroke.
Mrs Birdseye said: "It's incredibly frustrating. I may well have had the stroke even if I had been on an anticoagulant but the fact that I was taking aspirin which was absolutely, I find out now, useless and gave me no protection whatsoever."
More than 300,000 patients with AF still take only aspirin to prevent them having a stroke.
Fiona uses the anticoagulant warfarin. A new generation of drugs has fewer side-effects, but there has been concern about the cost.
Trudie Lobban, CEO of the AF Association, said: "At first glance the new drugs seem far more expensive than warfarin or aspirin, however if you take into account the regular blood checks you have to have with warfarin and the clinics that have to be run and the consequences of some of the bleeding caused by warfarin, then the new drugs are just as cost-effective."
The AF Association has been pushing for the change since the first evidence suggested aspirin was ineffective in 2006.