Aspirin therapy is recommended by the American Heart Association as a way to prevent heart attack and stroke. However, researchers have determined that among patients with type 2 diabetes, aspirin therapy may not be as effective in preventing heart attack or stroke.
Low-dose aspirin did not appear to significantly reduce the risk heart attack and stroke in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study in JAMA.
However, aspirin did significantly reduce the combination of fatal heart attack and fatal stroke.
"Diabetes mellitus is a powerful risk factor for cardiovascular events," the authors write. "Individuals with diabetes have a two- to four-fold increased risk of developing cardiovascular events than those without diabetes." The authors note that the "American Diabetes Association recommends use of aspirin as a primary prevention strategy in patients with diabetes who are at increased cardiovascular risk," including those who are older than 40 years or who have additional risk factors, such as family history, hypertension, or smoking.
In this study researchers examined whether low-dose aspirin would be beneficial for primary prevention of atherosclerotic (atherosclerosis, which involves narrowing or hardening of the arteries because of plaque build-up) events in patients with type 2 diabetes. From Dec. 2002 through April 2008, 2,539 patients with type 2 diabetes and no history of atherosclerotic disease from 163 institutions from throughout Japan were enrolled in the study. Patients were randomly assigned to the low-dose aspirin group receiving 81 or 100 mg per day (n = 1,262) or the nonaspirin (n = 1,277) group. The average age was 65 and 55 percent of the patients were men. The median (midpoint) follow-up period was 4.37 years. The main outcome measures were atherosclerotic events, including fatal or nonfatal ischemic heart disease, fatal or nonfatal stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
"A total of 154 atherosclerotic events occurred: 68 in the aspirin group and 86 in the nonaspirin group," the researchers write. "In the 1,363 patients aged 65 years or older (719 in the aspirin group and 644 in the nonaspirin group), the incidence of atherosclerotic events was significantly lower in the aspirin group (45 events, 6.3 percent) than in the nonaspirin group (59 events, 9.2 percent)." In the 1,176 patients younger than 65 the difference among events in the two groups was not significant.
Aspirin was well tolerated: in comparing bleeding events, the researchers reported 13 hemorrhagic strokes, with no statistically significant difference between aspirin takers and non-takers (six such strokes in the aspirin group; seven in the non-aspirin group). There was a comparable number of the combined endpoint of serious hemorrhagic events (hemorrhagic strokes and major gastrointestinal bleeds).
"[Heart attack] and stroke are leading causes of mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes. Given the rapid increase in the number of patients with type 2 diabetes worldwide and especially in Asia, establishing effective means of primary prevention of coronary and cerebrovascular events is an important public health priority," the authors comment.
While this study did not find that low-dose aspirin significantly reduced the risk of atherosclerotic events in primary prevention therapy in patients with type 2 diabetes, the authors suggest more research is needed.