CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Aspirin is a type of blood thinner and reduces the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Experts say more and more people are becoming resistant to its benefits.
Wes Champion leads an active life as a father of three, an Army reservist and a youth group leader at his church. At age 44, he had none of the risk factors for heart problems. Last Christmas, he learned he had a genetic heart defect that required bypass surgery.
Champion is almost back to full strength. He takes medications, including aspirin, to prevent future problems.
"I'm taking 325 milligrams of aspirin a day and I'll probably stay on that the rest of my life," he said.
Champion assumes the aspirin is working for him. Doctors are learning that up to one in four patients may not be experiencing its benefits.
"People wouldn't know that they were resistant to aspirin just from taking it. They're not going to feel any different," said Dr. Gilbert White, a hematologist at University of North Carolina Hospitals.
White says aspirin resistance is a fairly new concept and not fully understood.
Clinical trials are needed to answer why some people do not respond to aspirin's effects on blood platelets and what the solution may be. He says there are other anti-platelet medications, like Plavix, but they are more expensive than aspirin.
"I mean aspirin is one of the most remarkable drugs ever developed. It does so many things and it's so inexpensive," White said.
White says heart patients need to talk to their doctor about aspirin resistance.
Champion says he would rather find out if he is resistant to aspirin through a blood test rather than waiting for another surprise heart problem.
Commercial blood or urine tests are not available to detect aspirin resistance. Those kind of tests can be done in hospitals or large lab centers.