Heartburn drug can let some heart patients take aspirin

Wednesday, June 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A heartburn drug can enable some heart patients with bleeding ulcers to return to a daily dose of aspirin to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

A baby aspirin a day is widely prescribed to prevent blood clots in people with heart disease. It is effective and cheap. But aspirin can irritate the stomach lining and cause bleeding ulcers.

Researchers in Hong Kong studied 123 heart patients who had to be taken off of daily low-dose aspirin because of bleeding ulcers, and were infected with bacteria known to cause ulcers.

After getting antibiotics to eradicate the germ, all 123 went back on aspirin. Sixty-two also got the prescription heartburn drug Prevacid, which cuts acid production in the stomach; the rest got a dummy pill.

Only one patient in the Prevacid group had more stomach bleeding in the year that followed, versus nine in the placebo group, Dr. Kam Cheun Lai of Queen Mary Hospital reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Richard Stein, chief of cardiology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, said it is an important finding.

Aspirin is ``clearly the most potent ubiquitous drug to prevent first and second heart attacks and strokes,'' he said. ``One major side effect seems significantly manageable with this class of drugs.''

Currently, heart patients who cannot take aspirin are sometimes put on more expensive anti-clotting drugs.

The research was paid for by the University of Hong Kong.

An advisory committee recommended last week that the Food and Drug Administration make Prilosec, a heartburn medicine in the same class of drugs, available without prescription. Nexium, Aciphex and Protonix are also in the same class.