U.S. task force narrows recommendation for aspirin use

NEW YORK (Reuters) - People between the ages of 50 and 59 years at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke should take daily low-dose aspirin, according to proposed, narrower recommendations from a U.S.-backed panel of independent medical experts.

Bayer brand aspirin is seen on display at the Safeway store in Wheaton, Maryland February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

In addition to preventing heart attacks and strokes, those people may reduce their risk of colon cancer if they take aspirin for at least 10 years, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, or USPSTF.

The proposal is narrower than the group’s previous recommendations, which separated guidelines by sex and also recommended the drug for people outside ages 50 to 59.

The changes are based on the inclusion of colon cancer risk into the recommendation and the addition of four clinical trials on the use of aspirin since 2009.

“The people we recommend taking aspirin are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and who are not at an increased risk of bleeding complications,” said Dr. Doug Owens, a member of the panel.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year rejected labeling aspirin for the use of preventing heart attacks and strokes.

The task force looked at the broader benefits of the drug and likely more evidence, said Owens, who is also affiliated with the Stanford School of Medicine in California.

The new recommendation is specifically for people expected to live at least 10 years, and who are at a 10 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke during that time. The risk is based on the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology calculator, which takes into account cholesterol and blood pressure(

For at-risk people aged 60 to 69 years, the guidelines say the benefit is not as large compared to people ages 50 to 59 years, and decisions to take aspirin should be made on a case by case basis.

The group said it did not have enough data to determine whether people aged 50 or younger and people aged 70 or older should take daily low-dose aspirin.

“Overall, the USPSTF did a really thorough job ” said Dr. Mark Creager, president of the American Heart Association. “I think they’re right on target in how they evaluated the data, what their recommendation was, who was involved and the grade of the recommendation.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, the task force’s recommendations are used to help set health insurance reimbursement policies.

Reporting by Andrew Seaman; Editing by Caroline Humer and Frances Kerry