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Monday, February 18, 2013

Who Should (And Should Never) Take Aspirin

Packages of aspirin fill the shelves of a drugstore in Chicago in 2009. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

Packages of aspirin fill the shelves of a drugstore in Chicago in 2009. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

We’ve all heard that if you’re having a heart attack, you should take aspirin. But is it always appropriate to take aspirin for heart disease? And who should never take it?

Doctors do not recommend giving aspirin to children, and often suggest ibuprofen – for example Motrin or Advil – as an alternative.

But in rare cases, ibuprofen has been known to be toxic for children.

Last week a Massachusetts court awarded the Reckis family $63 million in a ruling against the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, for not adequately warning patients about a rare potential side effect from Children’s Motrin.

In the fall of 2003, Samantha Reckis was seven years old and her parents gave her Children’s Motrin to soothe a fever.

Over 24 hours, Samantha took three doses. She had a reaction that was diagnosed as toxic epidermal necrolysis - she suffered lung and liver damage, the loss of most of her skin and became legally blind.

Now 16 years old, Samantha has had nearly 40 surgeries – six of them on her brain.

The $63 million award must still be approved by a trial judge, but Johnson & Johnson issued a statement saying “Children’s Motrin, when used as directed, is a safe and effective treatment option for minor aches and pains and fever and we believe the medicine is labelled appropriately.”

Like ibuprofen, Aspirin is also a non-steroidial, anti-inflammatory compound,  but aspirin also works as an anticoagulant – a blood thinner – and is often prescribed to those with a history of heart disease or people who might be at risk for a stroke or heart attack.

Dr. Randall Stafford, director of Stanford’s Program on Prevention Outcomes and Practices, tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that there’s new research in the area of aspirin helping to prevent dementia and colon cancers.

“The evidence has been slowly accumulating,” Stafford said. “We’re getting close to the point where we might take those preventative abilities into consideration when we prescribe aspirin.”


  • Dr. Randall Stafford, director of the Program on Prevention Outcomes and Practices at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Jweilburg

    Randy Stafford is terrific, great to hear him on your show.  If you get this in time, please tell him I said hello!  Thx Jeff Weilburg MD

  • Antoine

    I don’t take any medications, period. NONE. Haven’t for most of my 63 years on earth.
    I have learned through my years of research into nutrition, diet, lifestyles, etc how to take care of myself and my family and those friends interested in the subject.
    So what am I? A threat to the medical-industrial complex. After all there is no money in healthy people. 
     Americans are overfed and undernourished due to their Standard American Diet(SAD) of overprocessed, fragmented, devitalized, chemicalized, GMO ladened, dead and stale material which passes off as “food”.

    As Dr. Henry G. Bieler stated from his book “Food Is Your Best Medicine”. 

    “Over and over I explain to patients, ‘Your pain, misery and illness results from your own dietary mistakes and drugs. You are suffering because you are filled with toxic wastes caused by your diet of poorly selected food filled with artificial flavorings, preservatives, synthetics, and over-processed ingredients—too much stimulating food and too few natural vitamins from vegetables and fruits….’ ” 

    • Lcf02139

       Yes you are a threat and a nuisance to the system! Like me, you can see through the drug companies claims, their decorative images on the boxes of over-the-counter drugs etc..

      I couldn’t say it any better than you just did. I am 52 years old, never been to the Dr. except for colonoscopy.

      I don’t, nor will I ever take any drug unless my life depends on it.

      The Drs are prescribing children as young as 6, various anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-ADHD, all made up diagnoses! Now then even have pill for “failure to thrive”, if a child is not growing as expected. CHILD ABUSE!

  • sean conway

    all those great comments were interrupted because the broadcast  was full of static and you can’t hear all the stuff in it.

    • Robin

      Ack! Are you in San Diego as well? we’re looking into it.


      • JV

        yes… same problem … was trying to listen on KPBS in San Diego … signal kept cutting out intermittently every 5 or 10 seconds … enough to give one a heart attack…;)

      • Arlene Van de Wetering

        It’s a holiday.  The station is being run by computer.  There’s no one there to listen!  I don’t expect a do over.  KPBS never corrects errors.  Sadly, we have no choice of PBS radio & television stations in San Diego.

        • Steve

          Computers and robots taking over the world. Humans will become obsolete.
          Welcome to your future.

  • Kathleen Bailey

    I had a stroke in Oct.  im healthy thin 44 and on HRT for an NIH study for premature ovarian failure and my bones were badly osteopenic 5 years ago and now I only have a mild spot in my left femural head AND have grown a 1/4 inch!  So the benefits outweigh the risk for me.  I am on daily low dose, BUT recently started taking fish oil.  I cut myself shaving on V-day and it didn’t stop for 5 hours.  Can I just take the fish oil since it is obviously a potent blood thinner?

  • Kathleen Bailey

    Of course I couldn’t navigate all of the privacy issues I encountered in time enough to get my question in.  Bummer.

  • Nancy Guilford

    HOW CAN I DOWNLOAD THIS PROGRAM?  Transmission was full of static and difficult to hear in San Diego.


    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Hi Nancy, the audio will be posted to this page by 2pm at the latest (probably closer to 1:30pm).

  • rjsf

    Aspirin is unsafe for people suffering from colitis and krohns. What about this population?

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Eventually almost everyone will be told to take low dose Aspirin. If Aspirin was an expensive “new drug”, it would be called a “miracle drug” and doctors and pharmaceutical companies would be pushing everyone to take it HARD! The marking of it would be all over – you wouldn’t be able to escape the marketing – to everyone!  But, because almost no one can make any money from selling Aspirin (except maybe Bayer), we are told “Oh…be very careful with this drug, it could be very dangerous”. Other drugs with a list of bad side effects a mile long are advertised and prescribed by the billions though. In my opinion, this doctor was overly alarmist, given the dozens of fantastic benefits that have already been proven from taking Aspirin (including lowering the risks of cancer by as much as 60%). Can you image if Glaxo had come out with a drug that could all this?! It would be sold for $100-$300 a month! There is NO other drug that has been able to show the widespread benefits of Aspirin(with relatively low risks and side effects) – EVER! I have been taking low dose (and even regular dose) Aspirin for over 25 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1268282920 Robert Bennett

    Great show, I’ve always been interested in aspirin research and usage. I’m a long distance mountain biker, is there any benefit to using aspirin for endurance activities, or should I not use it considering the risk of crashing inherent in my sport

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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