Aspirin: The dangerous side effects

Aspirin Protect – one of many variants of the drug. However, the non-hazardous active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid is contained in all.

Aspirin Complex, Protect, Effect, Direct, Caffeine, Plus C and Migraine – Aspirin seems to be against almost any form of pain. For over 100 years, it has been the bestseller in pharmacies. Bayer manufactures five billion tablets annually at the Bitterfeld site for the international market. About 40 million packages of aspirin are sold every year in Germany and growing. For the pharmaceutical company, this meant a massive turnover of 776 million euros worldwide in 2010. Aspirin is considered the most successful drug on earth — the problem: What you can get without a prescription is deemed to be harmless for many people.

Aspirin – the remedy?

The 10-20 rule

Painkillers should be used for a maximum of ten days a month. Twenty days a month should be free of their intake. This rule does not count the number of tablets used on the ten days, but only the day, regardless of the amount consumed.

As early as 1900 aspirin had established itself as a panacea for the common cold, tuberculosis, thrombosis, tonsillitis, headache and especially rheumatism. On the other hand, it is less well known that the use of aspirin and its many copycat products can even be life-threatening. The advertisement has done a great job in creating the impression that aspirin is beneficial to health like a vitamin tablet. “For many of my patient’s aspirin enjoys the reputation of being the panacea,” explains Hamburg gastroenterologist Friedrich Hagenmüller. “Some people do not even consider aspirin to be a medicine, which has side effects, but as helpful lifestyle support and life extension in all circumstances, so to speak.” This quickly causes misuse of the drug. Moreover, consumers usually do not read the leaflet at all.

Christa K. came to the clinic with a bleeding gastric ulcer to Professor Hagenmüller. For her, aspirin was a simple home remedy until then.

Acetylsalicylic acid, abbreviated ASA, has three effects: for pain, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory. However, aspirin can also have serious side effects. It can cause ulcers and bleed in the stomach or intestines because it attacks the mucous membranes in the digestive tract. The drug can also cause asthma attacks and kidney damage. Friedrich Hagenmüller estimates that the number of annual deaths in Germany in which aspirin is involved is four-digit: “One has to assume that the number of cases is between 1,000 and 5,000.

Underestimated danger: blood thinning effect

Unlike other painkillers, aspirin not only helps to relieve pain but also dilutes the blood. This can be problematic even during a dental procedure. The blood thinning effect of aspirin was discovered because patients continued to bleed after almond operations. Even today, aspirin is a problem before surgery. Therefore, no aspirin should be taken five days before surgery, because the blood-thinning effect of one tablet of aspirin persists for so long after taking it. In certain diseases such as heart attack or stroke, however, precisely this blood thinning side effect is desired and thus possibly helps Aspirin to a second career.

Some physicians see ASA as a painkiller critical.

As analgesics, however, so many doctors, drugs with acetylsalicylic have served their time. “Aspirin is not needed for the treatment of pain, it has its blessings and good effects in other areas, but as a painkiller, it is dispensable because we have better funds,” says Friedrich Hagenmüller. Naturally, Uwe Gessner, research associate at the Bayer subsidiary Bayer Vital, sees things differently: “Aspirin is a drug that has been on the market for more than 110 years and has been well also studied in the future, in my opinion, be a drug that will have its value against pain and fever and inflammation “.

The push to reduce packaging failed.

Too many people use painkillers too often.

8.3 million Germans regularly take headache tablets. To at least limit the risk of careless handling of people with aspirin and other ASA products, according to pharmacologists and pharmacists access to more massive amounts of painkillers should be made more difficult. The first step in this direction would have been to reduce the size of packs, as suggested by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Products (BfArM) in September. “The goal is that over-the-counter analgesics can only be used on patients for up to four days and that a treatment lasting more than four days requires a doctor’s consultation,” said Maik Pommer, spokesman for the BfArM. Not only acetylsalicylic acid but also the over-the-counter painkillers ibuprofen, diclofenac, paracetamol and naproxen, and the lesser-known agent’s phenazone and propyphenazone were discussed.

However, to reach a relevant legislative initiative with the responsible Federal Ministry of Health, the “Committee of Experts on Prescription Obligation” has to make a recommendation for this. However, surprisingly, the Committee of Experts rejected the BfArM’s proposal at the end of September. Formal and legal reasons have led to it. Because with the new regulation, larger packaging of all painkillers, including aspirin, would have become a prescription.

Information for patients: Patients must be protected

“The implementation of this proposal would have been a perfect way towards consumer protection, to the risk awareness of the consumer as well as to minimize risk overall,” says Professor Hartmut Göbel. The medical director of the Kiel Pain Clinic deals daily with people who suffer from the consequences of careless handling of painkillers. Better education and access to painkillers are needed, as well as to protect patients from misuse of the medication. Because painkillers are highly effective drugs. Moreover, they also have serious side effects.


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