Aspirin Dangers Revealed

Aspirin has emerged as the drug with the greatest potential to cause problems if it interacts adversely with other drugs.

An analysis of emergency department presentations reveals that while aspirin is not a prescription drug, doctors often prescribe it to patients with cardiac disease or to prevent stroke.

Previous research suggests about 1 per cent of all hospital admissions are due to patients suffering the adverse effects of drug interaction.

A study of 409 patients who attended the Royal Melbourne Hospital's emergency department and who were taking two or more drugs has identified 855 potential drug interactions. Aspirin was involved in 237 interactions. About 62 per cent of patients who were taking multiple medication could have had a potential interaction.

The hospital's director of emergency medicine research, Associate Professor David Taylor, said 15.3 per cent of the total number of potential interactions were “major” – where someone could become seriously ill or die. About 71 per cent were moderate, and 13.5 per cent minor.

While none of those in the study actually suffered adverse reactions, a computer software program was used to detect potential interactions between drugs the patients were taking.

The research, conducted between November last year and March this year, will be presented at an emergency medicine conference in Melbourne tomorrow.

Professor Taylor said the more drugs people took, the greater the potential of drug interaction and that doctors needed to be cautious when prescribing. “There can be a change in the potency or efficiency in one drug that's affected by the other one. One drug might increase the effect of the other drug or one drug might decrease the effect of the other drug,” he said.

Professor Taylor said the fact that no one in the study suffered an adverse reaction suggested the risk of the interactions might be small, and the benefits of taking the drugs outweighed the risks.

Story taken from the The Age website. Written by Carol Nader, published November 23, 2005.