Aspirin-the wonder drug

Aspirin-the wonder drug

I wanted to continue to discuss the fabulous news reported this week in the Lancet. A single daily low dose aspirin (81 mg) reduced the risk of developing and dying from certain types of cancers!! I repeat, one aspirin a day prevented cancer! This is a big deal and puts aspirin right up there with penicillin and the HIV cocktail!

Now, many doctors are skeptical; they want more proof that the benefits of taking aspirin outweigh its risks. In the absence of any bleeding disorders, an active peptic ulcer or an allergy to aspirin, aspirin’s benefits far out weigh any risks. At low doses (like the 81 mg baby aspirin) there’s very little risk of gastric damage. However, the benefits are enormous. In men, aspirin can reduce the risk for heart attack in half and in women it significantly reduces risk of stroke. Now, you can add reducing cancer mortality to the list!

The USPSTF, a panel of health care experts that evaluates the latest scientific evidence on clinical preventive services, reports that aspirin is under used in the USA. They believe that if aspirin was properly prescribed there would be an additional 44,000 lives saved each from cardiovascular disease!

The skeptics want to wait for a clinical trial! Don’t hold your breath. As noted by my friend, Harold Pollack, in the Incidental Economist, the concluding paragraph from the NY Times that carried an article on this wonderful news about aspirin says it all:

“Some cancer doctors commended the new research, saying said that despite the limitations of the analyses, no other long-term clinical trials of aspirin and cancer are likely to be done because of the enormous expense involved and the fact that aspirin is a cheap generic drug”.

Well, somebody at least came out and said it. If it doesn’t generate huge profits the pharmaceuticals won’t bother to test it! Once all the hoopla dies down everyone will forget about aspirin and we can get on with the “business” (not healthcare) at hand-make money!

Most of us won’t be able to afford the new “biologics” that are coming onto the market to treat a plethora of diseases including cancer. These drugs cost tens of thousands of dollars. Disease prevention, like you would do by taking aspirin (at pennies a day), doesn’t generate profit. But, treating diseases, now that’s another story.

Until we get the greed out of our disease care system (single payer?, salaried physicians?) and we all do our part by taking care of ourselves, the disease care system, which represents 20 percent of our economy will burst. And, it will make what happened to the financial industry in 2008 look puny.



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