August 18, 2014

YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY ASPIRIN:

Is a Baby Aspirin a Day the New Apple? (Hilda Bastian, August 17, 2014, Scientific American)

His first big clue came when people started hemorrhaging after chewing gum.

Lawrence Craven did tonsil and adenoid surgery in his office. And it usually went well. But in the mid-1940s, "an alarming number of hemorrhages were evidenced in disturbing frequency," he said.

He figured it was the aspirin chewing gum people were using for pain relief. Maybe it interfered with blood clotting. Craven tested the idea out on himself. He took 12 aspirin a day till he got a "profuse nosebleed." Then he did it a couple more times to be sure.

And if the drug could interfere with blood clotting, Craven figured maybe it could prevent blood clots in arteries that caused heart attacks. So he started prescribing an aspirin a day to thousands of men at high risk of heart attack and recording what happened: very few heart attacks.

It was the first appearance of the "aspirin a day" practice in the medical literature. But no one followed up on Craven's call for controlled testing of the hypothesis. Then in the 1960s, John O'Brien, a hematologist in Portsmouth, England, arrived at the same conclusion. That convinced Peter Elwood from the UK Medical Research Council to start a randomized controlled trial. The first men enrolled in 1970.
Posted by at August 18, 2014 3:02 PM
  
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