FYI Daily

Aspirin or Warfarin? Cheaper Option Proven Fine

Last updated: May 08, 2012

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Does your loved one with heart failure take Coumadin? Aspirin has been found to be as effective as the drug warfarin (brand name Coumadin) in preventing strokes in people with heart failure, and is therefore a better choice, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients with heart failure who also have atrial fibrillation and people who have had a heart attack would still benefit from warfarin, experts say.

Aspirin, of course, is also less expensive, but it also requires less monitoring, and has been shown to have fewer gastrointestinal side effects. A challenge in using warfarin is how to keep blood levels in a safe range. It's also considered one of the most mistake-prone drugs, in part because so many other medications -- and even diet -- modify how it works.

In the Columbia University study, more than 2,000 patients in their 60s were randomly assigned a regimen of either Coumadin or aspirin, and were followed for six years.

In a Daily Telegraph report, Shunichi Homma, professor of medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and associate chief of the Cardiology Division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said: "Since the overall risks and benefits are similar for aspirin and warfarin, the patient and his or her doctor are free to choose the treatment that best meets their particular medical needs. However, given the convenience and low cost of aspirin, many may go this route."

Image by Flickr user Damian Gadal, used under a Creative Commons license.