Asprin prevents blood clots
Taking aspirin is a cheap and safe way to prevent deadly blood clots, according to an international study.
The research, which included trials in Auckland, found by taking the low-dose painkiller patients with blood clots were less likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or reoccurring blood clots.
Auckland Hospital's Dr Paul Ockelford, who led the New Zealand trials, said the results would change the way patients with blood clots are treated.
"It's an exciting development," he said.
"We now have the evidence to recommend long-term aspirin as it's not only effective, but also safe and cheap."
Blood clots in the leg or lungs affect about one in every 1000 people in New Zealand each year.
Prescribing aspirin could potentially prevent up to 30 episodes of recurrent major blood clots and its complications.
Blood clots in the legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can affect people of any age and have been linked to long distance travel.
Life-threatening complications arise when the blood clot dislodges, travels through the body and forms an embolism in other veins or arteries.
This can be deadly, especially when the embolism occurs in the lungs, heart or brain.
Currently patients with blood clots are treated with blood thinning agent warfarin, but patients must take the costly medication for up to a year.
Principal Researcher Dr Tim Brighton, a haematologist in Sydney, said many patients stop warfarin early due to the inconvenience of regular blood tests and its health risks.
Patients who stop the treatment risk recurring blood clots.
This study found aspirin reduced the risk of stroke, heart attack or future blood clots.
"We now have clear evidence that aspirin is of benefit for patients who are unable or do not wish to continue warfarin in the long term."
The study, partly funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers tracked patients in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India and Argentina.
All the participants had a history of blood clots of the lungs or legs and completed six months of anti blood-clotting treatment.