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Study: No Preeclampsia-Aspirin Cure

March 12, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ Giving aspirin to pregnant woman to prevent dangerously high blood pressure called preeclampsia doesn’t work, a large study found.

Preeclampsia afflicts about 5 percent of pregnant women and can be fatal to both mother and child.

The new research means there is no accepted way to prevent this problem. The two most promising therapies _ aspirin and calcium supplements _ have both been discounted by recent research.

Aspirin came into wide use about five years ago for women at high risk after several small studies suggesting that it dramatically reduced the problem.

Larger studies were then done to confirm this, but they showed no benefit. However, those studies were criticized for not including enough women at high risk of preeclampsia.

Although aspirin use fell off, some doctors continued to give their patients low doses, typically one baby aspirin a day, especially for those women considered to be at very high risk.

The latest study was intended to settle the issue. It was conducted on 2,503 pregnant women considered at high risk because they were having twins or triplets, because they already had high blood pressure or diabetes or because they had an earlier pregnancy with preeclampsia.

The study found no benefit of aspirin for women with any of these conditions. About 20 percent got preeclampsia, whether or not they took aspirin.

``The implication for clinicians is that right now there does not appear to be a place for the use of low-dose aspirin to prevent preeclampsia,″ said Dr. Steve Caritis of Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, who directed the study.

The findings are being published in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In all, more than 28,000 women have been studied for the effects of aspirin in preeclampsia. Still, an editorial in the journal said the case is not closed.

Dr. William Barth Jr. of Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio speculated that it may still be possible to identify some women for whom aspirin helps, and timing the dose with women’s circadian rhythms may increase effectiveness.

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