Patients with venous thromboembolism - blood clots in the veins - usually undergo anticoagulant therapy. But a new study finds that for patents who are unable to take these drugs long-term, aspirin could be a promising and cost-effective alternative.

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For patients with venous thromboembolism, 100 mg of aspirin a day for at least 2 years reduced the risk of recurrent blood clots by up to 42%.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition comprised of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs) and pulmonary embolism - whereby the blood clots break off and travel to the lungs, blocking the arteries.

The research team - led by Dr. John Simes, director of the National Health and Medical Research Council Trials Centre and professor at the University of Sydney in Australia - says that unless treated, individuals who have blood clots in their veins with no apparent cause have a 10% risk of developing another clot in the first year and a 5% risk each year thereafter.

Treatment usually consists of anticoagulants - drugs that stop blood clots from forming - for around 6 to 12 months. But the researchers note that these patients continue to be at risk of recurrent blood clots.

Furthermore, there are serious health risks associated with anticoagulants. They can cause bleeding problems, for example, as well as pain, dizziness and headaches.

For this latest study, recently published in the journal Circulation, Dr. Simes and his team wanted to see whether aspirin could be used as an alternative to anticoagulants for the treatment of blood clots.

Aspirin reduced blood clot recurrence by up to 42%

The team conducted an analysis of two studies involving a total of 1,224 patients with VTE who were given 100 mg of aspirin a day.

During a minimum 2 years of follow-up, Dr. Simes and his team found that aspirin reduced the risk of recurrent blood clots in these patients by almost 42%.

Although these findings are promising, Dr. Simes notes that aspirin is not as effective as anticoagulant therapy and should not be offered in place of these drugs.

But he points out that aspirin could be a promising long-term blood clot treatment for patients who are ceasing anticoagulant therapy or who are unable to undergo this treatment.

He adds:

"Although less effective, aspirin is inexpensive, easily obtainable, safe and familiar to patients and clinicians worldwide. If cost is the main consideration, aspirin is a particularly useful therapy. The costs of treating future thromboembolic events is greater than the cost of the preventive treatment."

Pointing out some other benefits of aspirin for extended anticoagulant therapy, study co-author Dr. Cecilia Becattini says the drug does not require laboratory monitoring and is linked to a 10-fold reduced risk of bleeding, compared with oral anticoagulants.

Medical News Today recently reported on a study by researchers from the University of Texas in Austin, which claims aspirin may halve breast cancer recurrence in overweight women.