In the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, in contrast to the recommendations of the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Heart Association, the US Food and Drug Administration recently stated that there was insufficient evidence to judge whether aspirin therapy decreases the risk of a first myocardial infarction.
To perform an overview of the 4 primary prevention trials of aspirin therapy to obtain the most reliable estimates of the effects of aspirin therapy on various vascular disease end points.
Methods and Results
These 4 trials included more than 51,000 subjects and 2284 important vascular events. Those assigned to aspirin therapy experienced significant reductions of 32% (95% confidence interval [CI], 21%-41%) for nonfatal myocardial infarction and 13% (95% CI, 5%-19%) for any important vascular event. There were possible small but nonsignificant increases in risks of vascular disease–related death (1%; 95% CI, −12% to 16%) and nonfatal stroke (8%; 95% CI, −12% to 33%). When strokes were subdivided by type, there was no significant effect of aspirin therapy on the risk of ischemic stroke, but, while based on small numbers, there was a 1.7-fold apparent increase (95% CI, 6%-269%) in the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which did achieve statistical significance.
For the primary prevention of vascular disease, aspirin therapy confers significant beneficial effects on first myocardial infarction and, as a result, on any important vascular event; these effects are clinically important. Whether there is any reduction in vascular disease–related death or stroke associated with treatment remains unclear because of inadequate numbers of events in the primary prevention trials completed to date. More data on hemorrhagic stroke are also needed. In addition, randomized trial data, especially in women but also in men, are needed to help to formulate a rational public health policy for individuals at usual risk. Meanwhile, these data provide evidence for a significant benefit of aspirin therapy in the primary prevention of myocardial infarction.