The independent panel of disease-prevention experts analyses medical research and literature and issues periodic advice on measures to help keep Americans healthy. Newer studies and a re-analysis of older research prompted the updated advice, Wong said.
Aspirin is best known as a pain reliever, but it is also a blood thinner that can reduce chances for blood clots. But aspirin also has risks, even at low doses – mainly bleeding in the digestive tract or ulcers, both of which can be life-threatening.
Dr Lauren Block, an internist-researcher at Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, said the guidance is important because so many adults take aspirin even though they have never had a heart attack or stroke.
Block, who is not on the taskforce, recently switched one of her patients from aspirin to a cholesterol-lowering statin drug because of the potential harms.
The patient, 70-year-old Richard Schrafel, has high blood pressure and knows about his heart attack risks. Schrafel, president of a paperboard-distribution business, said he never had any ill effects from aspirin, but he is taking the new guidance seriously.
Rita Seefeldt, 63, also has high blood pressure and took a daily aspirin for about a decade until her doctor told her two years ago to stop.
“He said they changed their minds on that,” recalled the retired school teacher from Milwaukee. She said she understands that science evolves.
Wong acknowledged that the backtracking might leave some patients frustrated and wondering why scientists can’t make up their minds.
“It’s a fair question,” he said. “What’s really important to know is that evidence changes over time.”