Doctors should not routinely give aspirin to people with diabetes to help guard against a heart attack or stroke, a British study found on Friday.
While it was effective for those who had already developed heart disease or suffered a stroke, regular aspirin offered no benefit for patients with diabetes and a common circulatory problem, researchers said.
"Although aspirin is cheap and universally available, practitioners and authors of guidelines need to heed the evidence that aspirin should be prescribed only in patients with established symptomatic cardiovascular disease," William Hiatt of the University of Colorado wrote in an editorial.
Hiatt was writing in the British Medical Journal, which published the findings.
The study led by Jill Belch and colleagues at the University of Dundee in Scotland included data on 1,276 men and women who had never had a heart attack or stroke but were at high risk because they had diabetes or peripheral arterial disease.
The researchers gave some people either aspirin or a placebo and others an antioxidant or placebo. They found that after eight years the number of heart attacks and strokes was about the same.
The researchers noted that aspirin remains effective for reducing risk among men and women who have already had a heart attack or stroke.
"We found no evidence to support the use of either aspirin or antioxidants in the primary prevention of cardiovascular events and mortality in people with diabetes," Belch and colleagues wrote.
"Aspirin should, however, still be given for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes."
While aspirin can cause stomach bleeding, the benefits still outweigh the risks for certain people, researchers said.