Stopping aspirin when on a blood thinner lowers risk of bleeding, study finds: Talk to your doctor about whether taking aspirin can do you more harm than good

If you’re already taking one blood thinner, mounting research suggests you might not need to take a second one.

In fact, when patients who are on a commonly prescribed blood thinner stop taking aspirin, their risk of bleeding complications drops significantly, a Michigan Medicine study finds.

Researchers analyzed over 6,700 people treated at anticoagulation clinics across Michigan for venous thromboembolism, or blood clots, as well as atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that can cause stroke. Patients were treated with the common blood thinner warfarin but also took aspirin despite not having history of heart disease.

“We know that aspirin is not a panacea drug as it was once thought to be and can in fact lead to more bleeding events in some of these patients, so we worked with the clinics to reduce aspirin use among patients for whom it might not be necessary,” said Geoffrey Barnes, M.D., senior author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Over the course of the study intervention, aspirin use among patients decreased by 46.6%. With aspirin used less commonly, the risk of a bleeding complication dropped by 32.3% — amounting to one major bleeding event prevented per every 1,000 patients who stop taking aspirin. Results are published in JAMA Network Open.

“When we started this study, there was already an effort by doctors to reduce aspirin use, and our findings show that accelerating that reduction prevents serious bleeding complications which, in turn, can be lifesaving for patients,” said Barnes, who is also an associate professor of internal medicine at U-M Medical School. “It’s really important for physicians and health systems to be more cognizant about when patients on a blood thinner should and should not be using aspirin.”

This de-escalation of aspirin use is based off several studies that found concerning links between concurrent use of aspirin and different blood thinners.

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