SAN ANTONIO — In an effort to extend the length of a disability-free life for older adults, researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio are partnering with colleagues from across the U.S. and Australia in the largest international trial ever sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA).
The Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) study will assess not only whether aspirin can prolong life but also whether it can prolong a life free of physical disability and/or dementia for healthy older people. The study is now enrolling participants from the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Participants will be seen in the clinical research unit at the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen. The clinical research unit shares the first floor of the RAHC with the South Texas VA Health Care Center.
“We really need to know if something as simple as taking a baby aspirin each day can change the trajectory of mental and physical decline that we so often see in our older patients,” said Michael L. Parchman, M.D., M.P.H., an ASPREE investigator from the UT Health Science Center School of Medicine.
While it is known that aspirin prevents heart attacks and strokes in people with established heart disease — benefits that clearly outweigh any risks associated with aspirin, such as bleeding — the role of aspirin in people without a history of cardiovascular disease is less certain.
“In the U.S., Australia and elsewhere, people are living longer, so identifying treatments to prolong life free of physical disability and memory problems is increasingly important,” said ASPREE investigator Anne Murray, M.D., associate professor of medicine and geriatrics at the University of Minnesota. “Aspirin is a potentially useful drug, as it is cheap and widely available.”
Data needed in older population
To date, very little information is available about the overall effects of aspirin in older adults because most trials focus on middle-aged people. The ASPREE study, for the first time, will determine whether the potential benefits of low-dose aspirin outweigh the risks specifically for people age 70 and over.
“Because of its proven effectiveness in preventing second events, many doctors have also prescribed aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes in otherwise healthy people,” said John McNeil, Ph.D., professor and head of the Monash School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine in Australia, and also a principal investigator for ASPREE.
“However, in the last couple of years, serious doubts have been raised about the evidence supporting this practice, and, as a result, editorials in major medical journals have called for this question to be settled.”
The ASPREE study will enroll 6,500 healthy individuals age 70 and over in the U.S. and another 12,500 in Australia. About 500 of those participants will come from the Valley. All eligible participants will be randomly assigned to take either low-dose aspirin or placebo daily for about five years.
The primary target audience in the Valley is the older Hispanic population, although others may participate. Individuals will be compensated for each visit. Interested people are invited to call the toll-free study number, 1-877-524-3265.
Patients will receive initial measurements on specific health markers as well as functional and cognitive ability, and changes in these will be monitored throughout the study.
“Those who participate in the ASPREE study in the Valley will, we hope, make a significant contribution to our knowledge about how we can all maintain an active healthy life as we grow older,” Dr. Parchman said.
ASPREE is being conducted in clinics and universities located in selected cities in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas. More information can be found at www.ASPREE.org.
Originally developed as a pilot study by Monash University in Australia, the ASPREE study is being conducted in partnership between Monash University, the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research in Minneapolis, and the National Institute on Aging.
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To schedule an interview with Dr. John McNeil of Monash University or Dr. Anne Murray of the University of Minnesota, contact Nathan Tessum at 612-341-7907 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $739 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.
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