..so said the headlines in a British newspaper, the Telegraph here. The paper was commenting on a study published last week which showed that those who consume as little as a quarter of a tablet of the over-the-counter aspirin pill reduced their chances of getting cancer of the large bowel, stomach and lungs.
So taken up by this finding, The New York Times, in an article today offered an explanantion of how aspirin prevents cancer : inflammation may play a role in cancer, and aspirin blocks the synthesis of prostaglandins, which are mediators of inflammation, and may affect early tumor promotion.
Good news like this unfortunately may not make everybody happy. The pharma companies, for one, will not relish this as aspirin is a very inexpensive drug to produce and, not being covered by a patent, will not bring in much profits ( it only costs a heart patient USD 4 for a year’s supply of aspirin, compared with USD 2000 to keep him on cholesterol medications).
In fact, 3 decades ago, the medical fraternity were singing praises about it –about how aspirin prevented heart attacks and strokes – to the extent that healthy doctors were taking it ‘just in case’ an illness were to strike them.There were calls then to even include aspirin in the community water supply so that people would benefit.
So how come this humble drug has not made that much a headway since it holds so much promise? The answer lies in the presence of a notorious and potentially dangerous side-effect: bleeding in the stomach and/or the brain. This can occur in susceptible individuals sometimes months after commencing it and it is often difficult for doctors to anticipate who will get them.
My advice is, despite aspirin being an over-the-counter medication not requiring a doctor’s prescription, its continuous usage necessitates one consulting a doctor about the potential risks. Caveat emptor!
- Aspirin timeline (telegraph.co.uk)