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Aspirin Called Aid against Second Heart Attack Philip M. Boffey Federal health officials said today that heart attack victims and certain others who suffered heart pains could reduce the likelihood of dying from further heart attacks by taking an aspirin a day. They suggested that such aspirin treatments might save 30 000 to 550 000 lives a year. The health officials also said that a newly approved device that can be surgically implanted in patients to counteract severe irregularities in heartbeat might save 10 000 to 20 000 additional lives a year. Margaret M. Heckler, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the two new developments constituted “dramatic new progress against death from heart attacks.” Secretary Heckler cautioned that studies reviewed by the Government did not show whether aspirin would be effective in preventing heart attacks in healthy people. Dr. Frank E. Young, the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, advised heart patients to consult their physicians before adding aspirin to their treatment. He said that aspirin was not a substitute for other treatments to prevent heart attacks. Mrs. Heckler announced that new professional labeling for aspirin, aimed at doctors rather than consumers, would indicate that one aspirin tablet a day, about 5 grains of 325 milligrams of aspirin can reduce the likelihood of heart attack for some patients. She said that Food and Drug Administration and industry scientists, assisted by advisory panels of experts, had analyzed seven studies involving more than 11 000 people conducted in the United States and abroad. Although the studies, some of which lasted up to four years, were not consistent in every respect she said the overall results indicated that an aspirin a day taken by patients who had previous heart attacks reduced the chance of another heart attack or of dying during the study period by about one-fifth. Whereas 12 to 22 percent of the heart patients not taking aspirin either had a subsequent heart attack or died in the period studied, the percentages were reduced by about three percentage points in those taking aspirin. Aspirin had an even greater effect in patients suffering from “unstable angina,” or chest pains that had worsened within the past month, according to one three-month study conducted by the Veterans Administration, the health officials said. In those patients, it cut the risk of progressing to a heart attack, or of dying from a heart attack, in half, from a 12 percent chance without aspirin to a 6 percent chance with aspirin. Federal officials said the seven studies were not “equally convincing” but, taken together, provided evidence of a “modest but worthwhile”effect in heart attack victims and a “more striking effect”in patients with unstable angina. Aspirin’s Role in Blood Clotting The aspirin is thought to achieve its effect by inhibiting the action of cells in the blood that play a role in clotting, thus reducing the danger that a clot will form and block the flow of blood to the heart, causing a heart attack. The new device whose approval was announced today is an “implantable cardiac defibrillato” developed by Intec Systems Inc. of Pittsburgh, and manufactured by Cardiac Pacemaker Inc. , of St. Paul, Minn. About the size of a deck of cards, it is meant to be implanted in certain patients with severe irregularities in heartbeat, abnormally rapid heart rate, or uncoordinated heart muscle contractions. It senses when the heart loses its normal rhythm and generates an electrical pulse to restore the normal pace. Most patients suffering from heart rhythm problems are helped by drugs, but about 400 000 now suffering from the conditions are not. The battery powering the device lasts only about two years and must then be surgically replaced.
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