Aspirin has long been renowned for being a simple way to help patients prevent heart attacks and stroke, but in the last years its effectiveness has come under fire.  Pharmaceutical companies have relied on some studies to claim that a good percentage of the population is “aspirin resistant,” which opened up a new market for more expensive prescription therapies.  But a new study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that this aspirin resistance does not exist at all, instead attributing aspirin’s sometimes seen ineffectiveness on a safety coating intended to decrease stomach upset.

The study revealed that not a single one of its 400 subjects showed real, consistent aspirin resistance.  Instead, the ineffectiveness of the pill could directly be linked to the coating.  In addition, the study’s authors state that the coating does nothing to actually protect the stomach, rendering it practically useless.  The authors say using generic, uncoated aspirin is a patient’s best bet.

Bayer, the world’s largest manufacturer of brand-name aspirin, both coated and uncoated, partially funded the study but disagreed with the study’s findings, insisting that both coated and uncoated aspirin are almost equally as effective.

It isn’t surprising that the whole concept of aspirin resistance gained speed with drug companies when they saw it as another way to make money.  There are 50 million Americans on aspirin therapy right now, most of the low-risk patients.  Why not call the inexpensive and easy therapy into question and bring in blood tests, urine tests, and prescription medications?  That is exactly what the drug companies did, claiming that up to 5% of cardiovascular patients show aspirin resistance, which would lead them to be three times as likely to have a heart attack.  Of course, they jumped right into the market they created, and now we have both blood and urine tests for aspirin resistance.  Bristol Myers Squibb created Plavix, a much more expensive brand name prescription drug created to provide the same benefits as aspirin.

For now, it seems safe for the rest of us to take the cheapest uncoated aspirin we can find and call it a day.  As the study authors explain, if aspirin resistance exists at all, the number of people suffering from it is very, very small.

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