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Aspirin's Success Is Threat To Research

ASPIRIN is unique. A little white pill so versatile, that it can relieve your headache, ease your aching limbs, lower your temperature and treat some of the deadliest human diseases. A roundup of evidence suggests that it helps prevent heart attacks, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis, cataracts, migraine infertility, herpes, Alzheimer’s disease and even some of the most devastating cancers such as bowel, lung and breast. It’s a list that continue to grow, which may help to explain why more than 25,000 scientific papers have been written on aspirin and why an estimated one trillion tablets have been consumed since the drug was first produced. But just as aspirin really begins to earn its spurs, the researchers investigating the unknown benefits it might provide, are facing a mountain of problems that threaten to half much of the ground-breaking work. “Unless we think of new ways to work, the discoveries, or at least those that can be proven through clinical trials, are going to dry up” says a researcher. It is now generally accepted that a third of all people at risk from a cardiac incident will not have one if they take a small daily dose of the drug. Therefore, it is almost impossible for researchers to give a placebo in an aspirin trial, for fear of a patient succumbing to a preventable heart attack or cancer. Any researcher who tried to justify such a step could run foul of ethical guidelines, enshrined in the Helsinki declaration and endorsed by bodies such as Britain’s Medical Research Council. These state that researchers should do nothing knowingly to harm the health of their subjects. This dilemma is compounded by a practical problem. Aspirin’s benefits are now so widely understood that fewer people are willing to take part in a trial in which they might get a placebo rather than a drug that could save their life. The use of placebos in many aspirin studies – traditionally the most useful tool for unlocking its new applications – has been widely abandoned, so providing regulators with sufficient proof of fresh benefits has become harder.

Generation next aspirin
Poly Aspirin is an “elastic” aspirin created by Rutgers University. Being tested, it consists of about 100 aspirin molecules in a chain. The belief is that it won’t cause a gastric irritation, and its elasticity means that it could be applied to a source of pain or a wound. Polypill contains aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering drug, three blood pressure drugs and folic acid. Its creators claim that if taken by everyone in high-risk categories, it could cut strokes and heart attacks by up to 80 per cent.

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