Health Canada approves Aspirin as emergency heart attack drug

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Health Canada has approved low-dose Aspirin as an emergency heart attack treatment.

Acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in Aspirin, prevents platelets from sticking together and can help break up blood clots that cause heart attacks, said McMaster University professor Jeff Weitz.

Platelets are blood cells that clot and allow the body to heal wounds and stop bleeding. When a clot forms in an artery, it can stop or slow blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack.

“It’s something that we’ve been doing for years. It’s something for which there is very good evidence,” said Weitz, who holds the Canada Research Chair in thrombosis.

Aspirin’s manufacturer, Bayer, suggests that people who think they may be having a heart attack call 911 and then chew two 81-milligram tablets.

Chewing the tablets before swallowing them will speed up absorption into the body, Weitz said.

The drug has few side effects in healthy people, he added, so there is “very little downside to just chewing an Aspirin.”

Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is also sold as a generic medication and will have the same effect when taken by a heart attack victim, Weitz said.

Research suggests that a low daily dose of ASA may help prevent heart attacks in people who have already had a heart attack or stroke or have heart disease, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The FDA recently declined to allow Bayer to claim in advertisements that the drug can also prevent heart attacks in people who have not already had one.

The medication’s side effects can include stomach bleeding, and when combined with blood thinners can interfere with normal blood clotting.

The FDA, as well as the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, recommend that people take the drug daily only on the advice of a doctor.

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