BMA Concise Guide to Medicine & Drugs

Aspirin

Brand names Aspro, Caprin, Disprin, Nu-Seals Aspirin, and others

Used in the following combined preparations Anadin, Codis, and others

QUICK REFERENCE

Drug group Non-opioid analgesic, antiplatelet drug, and antipyretic

Overdose danger rating High

Dependence rating Low

Prescription needed No

Available as generic Yes

GENERAL INFORMATION

In use for over a century, aspirin relieves pain, reduces fever, and alleviates the symptoms of arthritis. In low doses, it helps to prevent blood clots, particularly in atherosclerosis or angina due to coronary artery disease, and it reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It is present in many medicines for colds, flu, headaches, menstrual period pains, and joint or muscular aches. Aspirin may irritate the stomach and even cause peptic ulcers or bleeding. Another drawback of aspirin is that it can provoke asthma attacks.

In children, aspirin can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious brain and liver disorder. For this reason, aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 16 years, except on the advice of a doctor.

INFORMATION FOR USERS

Follow instructions on the label. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

How taken/used Tablets, SR capsules, suppositories.

Frequency and timing of doses Relief of pain or fever Every 4–6 hours, as necessary, with or after food or milk. Prevention of blood clots Once daily.

Adult dosage range Relief of pain or fever 300–900mg per dose. Prevention of blood clots 75–300mg daily.

Onset of effect 30–60 minutes (regular aspirin); 1½–8 hours (coated tablets or SR capsules).

Duration of action Up to 12 hours. Effect persists for 7–10 days when used to prevent blood clotting.

Diet advice Take with or immediately after food.

Storage Keep in original container at room temperature out of the reach of children.

Missed dose Take as soon as you remember. If your next dose is due within 2 hours, take a single dose now and skip the next.

Stopping the drug If you have been prescribed aspirin by your doctor for a long-term condition, you should seek medical advice before stopping the drug. Otherwise it can be safely stopped.

OVERDOSE ACTION

Seek immediate advice in all cases. Take emergency action if there is restlessness, sweating, ringing noises in the ears, blurred vision, or vomiting.

POSSIBLE ADVERSE EFFECTS

Adverse effects are more likely to occur with high doses of aspirin but may be reduced by taking the drug with food or in buffered or enteric-coated forms. If aspirin causes nausea, vomiting, or severe indigestion, consult your doctor. If you develop a rash, breathlessness, or wheezing, vomit blood, have black faeces, or experience ringing in the ears or dizziness, you should stop taking the drug and contact your doctor immediately.

INTERACTIONS

Anticoagulants Aspirin may add to the anticoagulant effect of such drugs, leading to an increased risk of abnormal bleeding.

Drugs for gout Aspirin may reduce the effect of these drugs.

NSAIDs may increase the likelihood of stomach irritation with aspirin.

Methotrexate Aspirin may increase the toxicity of this drug.

Sulphonylurea antidiabetic drugs Aspirin may increase the effect of these drugs.

Corticosteroids and some SSRI antidepressants These may increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding with aspirin.

SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS

Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking this drug if:

· You have long-term liver or kidney problems.

· You have asthma.

· You are allergic to aspirin or any NSAID.

· You have a blood clotting disorder.

· You have a history of peptic ulcer.

· You have glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.

· You are taking other medicines.

Pregnancy Not usually recommended. Discuss with your doctor.

Breast-feeding Avoid. The drug passes into the breast milk, posing the potential threat of Reye’s syndrome in your baby.

Infants and children Do not give to children under 16 years, except on a doctor’s advice.

Over 60 Adverse effects more likely.

Driving and hazardous work No special problems.

Alcohol Avoid. Alcohol increases the likelihood of stomach irritation with this drug.

Surgery and general anaesthetics Regular treatment with aspirin may need to be stopped about one week before surgery. Discuss with your doctor or dentist before any operation.

PROLONGED USE

Aspirin should not be taken in high doses for prolonged periods. All doses of the drug taken long term increase the risk of peptic ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.