Older adults who take aspirin daily are at greater risk for serious bleeding than previously thought, based on data from roughly 3,000 patients.
“The risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding on antiplatelet treatment increases with age, but it is uncertain whether older age alone is a sufficient indicator of high risk to justify routine coprescription of PPIs [proton pump inhibitors],” wrote
To assess the rate of bleeding among older adults on long-term aspirin therapy, Dr. Li and her colleagues reviewed data from the Oxford Vascular Study, a prospective population-based study of 3,166 patients. Of those, 1,584 were younger than 75 years, with an average age of 61 years, and 1,582 were at least 75 years old, with average age of 83 years. Patients were followed at 30 days, 6 months, and 1, 5, and 10 years to determine bleeding, recurrent ischemic events, and disability (Lancet. 2017. ).
In addition, more than twice the major upper GI bleeds were disabling or fatal in adults aged 75 years and older than in the younger patients (62% vs. 25%).
Only a third of the patients in the study were taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), partly because current clinical guidelines don’t specifically recommend their use and partly in the absence of an accepted definition of which patients are at high risk for upper GI bleeding, the researchers said. They estimated that the number needed to treat with PPIs to prevent a major GI bleed after 5 years decreased with age: “80 for patients younger than 65 years, 75 for patients aged 65-74 years, 23 for patients aged 75-84 years, and 21 for patients aged 85 years or older.” In addition, the number needed to treat with PPIs to prevent a disabling or fatal upper GI bleed after 5 years was 338 for patients younger than 65 years but dropped to 25 for patients aged 85 years and older.
The findings were limited by the observational nature of the study and inability to show that increased risk of bleeding was caused by aspirin alone, the researchers said. However, based on the data, “age 75 years would be an appropriate threshold to start a PPI both in patients newly initiated on antiplatelet drugs and in patients on established treatment,” they wrote.
The study data were taken from the Oxford Vascular Study, which was funded by the National Institute of Health Research and several other research institutions. Corresponding author , disclosed financial relationships with Bayer.