Wayne State University

Can Aspirin Prolong a Healthy Life? Wayne State University to test the benefits of aspirin

DETROIT— In an effort to extend the length of a disability-free life for older adults, researchers from Wayne State University are partnering with colleagues from across the U.S. and Australia in the largest international trial ever sponsored by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.

The research study, Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE), aims to assess whether aspirin can not only prolong life but help provide a life free of physical disability and/or dementia for healthy older people.

“ASPREE is the largest study of its kind, and its sheer size and scope will enable investigators and society to learn a great deal about whether aspirin can help older adults 70 years and older live longer, healthier lives,” said John Flack, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Medicine and Physiology, chair of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University, and site investigator for the study.

In addition to Dr. Flack, Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Gerontology at WSU, will work with the ASPREE study team on community outreach and recruitment efforts.

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,” explains ASPREE investigator Dr. Anne Murray, epidemiologist and geriatrician and associate professor of Medicine and Geriatrics at the University of Minnesota. “Aspirin is a potentially useful drug, as it is cheap and widely available.”

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,” explains Professor John McNeil, 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. Six hundred participants will be sought by Wayne State University. All eligible participants will be randomly assigned to take either low-dose aspirin or a placebo daily for about five years.

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.

“What we learn from the ASPREE study extends far beyond the effects of aspirin,” said Dr. Flack. “The scope of the study includes other clinical measurements and assessments that could impact and transform the way clinicians medically treat the elderly in their everyday care.”

ASPREE is being conducted in clinics and universities in select 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.


Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.