Doctors told stop prescribing aspirin for common heart condition

New guidelines will say aspirin is not the best drug for preventing strokes in people with atrial fibrillation

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Indy Lifestyle Online

GPs are to be told to stop prescribing aspirin to people with a common heart condition because it is no longer considered effective in preventing strokes.

The drug is used to thin the blood of hundreds of thousands of patients with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, which increases the chance of stroke inducing blood clots forming.

However in new guidelines set to be finalised this month, it will be recommended that aspirin be fazed out and replaced with other, more effective anticoagulant medication such as warfarin.

"Do not offer aspirin monotherapy solely for stroke prevention to people with atrial fibrillation," reads the draft document which was published earlier this year.

Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, which issues guidelines to doctors said: "This updated draft guideline reflects important new evidence about the best ways to treat the condition, including the use of the new generation of oral anticoagulants and ablation strategies, as well as the use of risk calculators to guide treatment decisions."

The previous guidelines were however already widely considered out of date, having been published in 2006. The British Heart Foundation told the BBC that most doctors had already began to move away from aspirin.

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Strokes caused by atrial fibrillation are both common and preventable but only if the abnormal heart rhythm is identified in the first place and if effective drugs are given to prevent blood-clot development.

"The revised NICE guidance reflects accumulating evidence that warfarin and the newer anticoagulants are much more effective than aspirin at preventing strokes.

"This does not mean that aspirin is not important and effective at preventing heart attacks and strokes in other circumstances. Patients who are unclear on whether or not they should continue to take aspirin should speak to their doctor."