Aspirin was first synthesised 100 years ago and its preparation and marketing is generally reckoned to have been the foundation of the pharmaceutical industry. For most of the time since then it has been used for the relief of pain and fever. The modern phase of aspirin use commenced with the reporting in 1974 of a randomised controlled trial in the secondary prevention of death by low-dose aspirin given to patients who had suffered a myocardial infarct. Reports of other trials followed and an overview of the first six trials was presented to the inaugural meeting of the Society for Clinical Trials in Philadelphia in 1980. There have been two further major overviews and the most recent, based on 145 trials, established that low-dose aspirin reduces vascular events by around one third. It has been estimated that, used appropriately, aspirin could prevent 100,000 premature deaths each year worldwide, at a cost of about 250 Pounds ($400) per life saved, and about 80 Pounds ($130) per cardiovascular event prevented. The evidence indicates that it is seriously underused at present. The aspirin story continues and trials are in progress to test other possible uses of aspirin, in vascular dementia, colorectal cancer, and cataract.
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