1999 : Aspirin: Lessons From The 15th Aspirin Foundation Scientific Meeting

Held In The Royal College Of Surgeons, Edinburgh,On 26 October 1999

In his opening address to the meeting, Professor Peter Elwood, Epidemiologist from the University of Wales College of Medicine, who published the first report on the value of aspirin in the treatment of myocardial infarction, reminded the audience of the following quotation:-

‘Among the many useful discoveries that this age has made there are few which better deserve the attention of the public than that which I lay before you.’ It was the Reverend Edward Stone of Chipping Norton in 1757 writing to the President of the Royal Society about his success in treating ague with willow bark, who was the author.

The Uses of Aspirin, the final pharmaceutical outcome of Stone’s researches, have spread far beyond the fevers for which he used his bark. It is as well known to the public today for its prevention and treatment of heart diseases as for headache and arthritis. Soon it may become just as well known for its prevention of bowel cancer, prevention of dementia and perhaps other conditions.

The conference held on October 26th covered these subjects. It also included a review of Hughes’ syndrome, by Dr Graham Hughes himself. Since his 1983 report of the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies in young people with venous and arterial thromboses and recurrent miscarriages, he has shown that they can be treated successfully with aspirin and, in severe cases, warfarin.

As with any effective drug, aspirin has its drawbacks. One of these was Reye’s syndrome, still controversial a decade after it led to the withdrawal of aspirin for children in the United States and Great Britain. The conference debated the data that led to its withdrawal. There are no plans to seek the re-introduction of aspirin for children, but there are nagging doubts on whether we may have lost a useful drug in children without good reason.