Aspirin, known for decades as the simple pain killer and later promoted to be a diluter of coagulated arteries is now being slated as healer of dementia and other neuro-cardio-vascular diseases and Australia-based Monash University is undertaking a huge clinical trial to prove or disprove it by 2018.
Dementia, usually hits elderly people affecting their cognitive mind, function and memory and has been a major challenge to the medical fraternity for over five decades.
Monash University in Melbourne, which has pioneered many studies related to aspirin, has been mandated by the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research in Minneapolis, US and the trial enrolling more than 19,000 people has begun with a 50 million Australian dollar (US $41 million) fund for the program titled “ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly” (ASPREE).
ASPREE will study aspirin’s properties such as ability to stop blood platelets clumping together, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes and its impact on neuro-cognitive functions.
The major and active ingredient in aspirin is salicin, known for its anti-inflammatory effect and is derived from willow trees, found in abundance in Australia.
Aspirin and ASPREE Project show promise for usage of daily low dose aspirin for people who have had a heart attack or stroke and it may help older people to live well for longer by delaying the onset of illnesses. Previous studies of aspirin have shown that it reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and vascular events in middle aged people and may help to prevent cognitive decline, depression and forms of cancer such as bowel cancer. The latest move is to study whether it can be prescribed for dementia too.
But aspirin is also known to have adverse-effects, such as bleeding, that may offset its benefits. Before doctors can prescribe aspirin, the ASPREE project will make sure that it is helpful in prolonging healthy, disability-free life in older people, the benefits must be weighed against the risks.
The ASPREE study, for the first time, will determine whether the potential benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks in healthy people aged 70 years and over.
Principal Investigator for ASPREE, Prof. John McNeil, from the Monash Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, said the study is extremely relevant for the ageing population in many countries such as Japan, Australia and Europe.
“The ASPREE study is a world first as it focuses entirely on the health of our older population – those who are 70 and over. ASPREE investigators recognise that aspirin has wide ranging potential health benefits but also that it has side effects, such as increased bleeding, that may offset its benefits. The ASPREE study will determine once and for all if the benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks.”
Australian actor and Logie award winner Terry Norris is one of ASPREE’s 10,000 participants. Mr Norris became involved knowing his participation, and the results of the study, will benefit the ongoing health and wellbeing of all Australians and future generations around the world.
“Most seniors wonder whether or not to take aspirin on a regular basis. ASPREE is undertaking pioneering research that will answer that question. ASPREE’s research will better the health of future generations around the world,” Mr Norris said.
ASPREE aims to reach a total of 19,000 enrolments in the trial – 16,000 from Australia and 3000 from the United States.
ASPREE, led by researchers from Monash University, is a collaborative effort involving; the Menzies Institute, the University of Tasmania, the University of Melbourne, Australian National University, the University of Adelaide and the Berman Centre for Outcomes & Clinical Research at the University of Minnesota in the US.
The ASPREE study is being funded by the US National Institute on Aging, with funding support also received from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA).
Early results of the ASPREE study should be known by 2018.