The United States Food and Drugs Administration, also known as FDA, issued a mass warning for aspirin users on Monday. The federal agency says that using over-the-counter products containing antacid drugs and aspirin-like Alka-Seltzer may cause gastrointestinal bleeding.

The list of products that combine this two elements is not short and includes big names such as Medique Medi-seltzer, Bromo-seltzer or anything that is effervescent and has ‘seltzer’ in its name. The agency reported at least 41 cases of severe bleeding between 1969 and 2014, 21 of them required blood transfusions. But this is not the first time specialists or the government warn the population of the dangers of the aspirin.

The amount of studies and specialists that attack the miracle pill is incredible.
The amount of studies and professionals that attack the miracle pill is incredible. Just by Googling “the dangers of aspirins”, a person will be faced with reviews and opinions of doctors deeming the medicine as dangerous. Image Credit: NBC News

Aspirins may not be as good as people think 

It is that time of the year already when everybody starts saying how dangerous aspirins are, but no one pays attention. The FDA is taking the lead this year, by warning told medication users about the dangers of products that mixed ASA and antacid drugs, but this is not the first time they talk about the dangers of one of the most famous pills on Earth. Back in 2009, the federal agency forced manufacturers to put a warning label on every product containing aspirins. Now they want to expand that advice to include that the risks of internal bleeding exist even when taking small regular doses.

Throughout the years, many doctors have associated the use of the medicine with health benefits, such as cancer, strokes and heart attack prevention. But there is an overwhelming amount of papers that say the studies showing these benefits are flawed at best. In fact, many cohorts have shown that there is no relationship between the use of the product and fewer risks of heart attacks or strokes.

Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) makes the blood ‘thinner.’

It has been around for a lot of time, and it has proven successful in treating temporal pains, headaches, and inflammation. Some doctors use it to treat fever, but then again, the FDA tells people not to use this medicine to deal with illnesses, especially on children because their immune system does not react well to the chemicals in it.

However in the early 2000s, a group of physicians started to see links between the use of the pill and lower risks of heart attacks and strokes, some even said it helps to prevent cancer. The claims are not without a base.

Our blood has a very useful mechanism. When people get cut, blood starts pouring out, but at the same time, it starts clotting to stop the fluid loss. It is easy to see as the process results in natural dry blood patches called hives. However, that same mechanism sometimes activates inside arteries and things get complicated. If blood clots inside an artery, it cuts the heart and brain supply which eventually leads to strokes and heart attacks. Aspirins hinder these clotting reaction or in other words, it makes blood thinner and somewhat unable to pile up. According to many specialists worldwide, this makes the medicine a perfect prevention method for cardiovascular complications.

However, scientists cannot get to consensus on this topic. While some studies “proof” benefits against strokes and heart attacks, other papers say that it makes everything worse.

The FDA is right about insisting

No matter the dosage, taking an aspirin a day thins the blood and yes, that probably helps to prevent heart attacks, but other studies show there is more. In people who suffer any circulation problems related to blood clotting, the pills have caused internal bleeding, more specifically gastrointestinal bleeding.

The medicine causes no problem when taken every now and then to treat headaches or inflammation, but studies have proven there are severe side effects when people take one per day.
The medicine causes no problem when taken now and then to treat headaches or inflammation, but studies have proven there are severe side effects when people take one per day. Image Credit: Health Newsline

Moreover, some reports say that it causes ulcers. According to the theory, thin blood is not sufficient to support the system that protects the stomach from digestive acids and after a period taking aspirins every single day, the shield that protects the stomach internal walls gets weak partially exposing the organ to the fluids there. Digestive acid is very harmful, and the resulting wound is known as an ulcer.

Once an ulcer is in place, blood starts leaking into the stomach because it is not thick enough to be held inside the vases. In other words, taking an aspirin a day will eventually make people bleed inside the stomach. The risks are much greater in children, people who drink alcohol, smoke, and seniors.

There is a group from Nottingham University that thinks a common stomach bug is the real cause of the bleedings. Back in 2012, they published a small study and found out that 60% of people who had internal bleeding while using aspirin products were infected with Helicobacter pylori bacterium. According to them, these microorganisms are the real threat and the medicine only makes them more active. Back then, a group of doctors from Oxford, Durham, Southampton, Birmingham and Nottingham said they would carry on another cohort to back up the “bug theory.” That last study was scheduled to finish by March 2016.

Source: FDA