This is a short report on the recent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation statement on the use of aspirin, one of two stories we reviewed on this topic. (Here’s the other, from STAT News.)
The story includes sufficient details on USPSTF’s recommendations on who could or could not benefit from taking a daily baby aspirin. However, very little is discussed beyond what was sent to journalists in advance, as a news release.
Aspirin is widely prescribed or purchased over-the-counter for aches and pains, and increasingly used to prevent cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, over the long term. Better public understanding of the benefits and harms of aspirin, and clearer delineations of the science around who is likely to benefit from taking it, are all likely to have an important health impact.
It is universally known that aspirin is cheap, sold widely and in a manner where its cost will not be a barrier to consumption, so the cost information is not necessary to reiterate in this report.
While we are told of the benefits to cardiovascular prevention, those effects are never quantified. This strikes as a missed opportunity to “show the numbers,” which are easily obtainable from the USPSTF recommendations and tables that discuss the quantified benefits.
Harms are explained, and that’s sufficient to rate as Satisfactory.
Unlike the other story we reviewed, this story didn’t indicate there are some important limitations to the evidence being presented by the task force. This gap in information in the story perhaps could have been avoided had more sources been interviewed, as this issue is being widely discussed among news outlets for physicians.
No obvious disease mongering here, as heart disease and colon cancer are substantial burdens on the U.S. population.
This was a close call, and just barely squeaked by as Satisfactory. The story included quotes from two interviewees, the chair of the task force and from another physician. However, that quote is lifted from a CBS TV interview from last year, and not regarding this latest report.
There are other ways to reduce cardiovascular risk, (exercise, diet modification, quitting smoking, other medications) and those would deserve at least a mention in a story like this, and how they compare in terms of benefits and harms.
It’s pretty clear that aspirin is ubiquitous and sold almost everywhere as an over-the-counter drug, so we’ll rate this one N/A. This story, and the other we reviewed, might have benefited from mentioning that the drug has a generic name (known as ASA or acetylsalicylic acid). Generic versions of the drug do exist, are likely cheaper than the brand name, and equally effective.
There were no statements exaggerating or suggesting the novelty of the drug, or its use, for these purposes. The new thing here is the task force’s recommendation, and that’s made clear.
While there were some passages in the story that read very similar to the news release, because this included an original interview, it rates as Satisfactory, though just barely.