Rationale for Expanding the Use of Low-Dose Aspirin for Primary Cardiovascular Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Arthur J. Siegel, M.D.


The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased life-expectancy in the United States in 2021, causing over one million deaths especially in elderly persons with medical co-morbidities. While now waning, this epidemic continues to cause more than 500 fatalities per week mostly in individuals over70 years of age who are unvaccinated. Since viral epidemics have been shown to increase mortality due to atherosclerotic coronary heart disease and low-dose aspirin has been shown to reduce first myocardial infarctions by 44%, we recommend consideration of expanding the use of aspirin for primary cardiovascular prevention to reduce the cardiac morbidity and excess mortality associated with COVID-19 infections. Such aspirin use may be seen as especially appropriate for vulnerable elderly persons who qualify for treatment with Paxlovid (ritonavir-boosted nirmatrelvir) but are currently excluded for such in primary prevention guidelines of subspecialty societies. The rationale for this approach is further supported by recent proof of concept that vaccination, an alternative intervention for primary cardiovascular prevention, reduces the excess mortality associated with COVID-19 infection.

Can greater use of aspirin for primary cardiovascular prevention mitigate the excess cardiac mortality associated with COVID-19 as shown with prior viral epidemics 1-3? Recommendations from the 2019 ACC/AHA and 2021 ESC guidelines currently advise limited aspirin use for primary prevention except in persons aged 40 to 59 years with elevated ASCVD risk scores (10-year risk ≥10%) and for those aged 60 to 69 years only with risk ≥20% in the context of no excess risk of bleeding (Figure 1) 4,5. These guidelines have been endorsed by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, which acknowledge that low-dose aspirin in the primary prevention setting reduces the risk of major atherosclerotic cardiovascular events including myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke offset by an increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding 7,8.  Currently endorsed guidelines specifically recommend against aspirin use in individuals at age 70 and beyond.

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SIEGEL, Arthur J.. Rationale for Expanding the Use of Low-Dose Aspirin for Primary Cardiovascular Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 10, oct. 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <https://esmed.org/MRA/mra/article/view/3159>. Date accessed: 06 dec. 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.18103/mra.v10i10.3159.
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