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"It means millions of healthy older people around the world who are taking low-dose aspirin without a medical reason may be doing so unnecessarily, because the study showed an overall benefit to offset the risk of bleeding", said McNeil.

"We knew there would an increased risk of bleeding", a study co-author tells NBC News (aspirin is a blood thinner).

In older people, any effect of aspirin on reducing heart disease or stroke might be expected to be enhanced due to their higher underlying risk.

The clinical trial did not include people who take aspirin for medical reasons as advised by their doctor, including those who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke.

But the new worldwide study followed 19,114 seniors for an average of 4.7 years.

When the participants were followed up almost five years later, doctors found that compared with the placebo, a daily aspirin had not reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke, or prolonged the number of years people lived without dementia or physical disabilities. Problems like stroke and intestinal bleeding occurred in 8.6 per cent of aspirin patients versus 6.2 per cent of placebo patients.

"The use of low-dose aspirin resulted in a significantly higher risk of major hemorrhage and did not result in a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than placebo", the researchers wrote in one of the papers.

The doctors unexpectedly found that those who took aspirin were slightly more likely to have died over the course of the trial (5.9%) than those who took the placebo (5.2%).

"Aspirin is the most widely used of all preventative drugs and an answer to this question is long overdue".

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Using the help of Global Positioning System, researchers recruited 16,703 older people in Australia and 2411 in the United States, with approximately 9500 people in both the aspirin and the placebo group.

The primary study looked to answer whether or not 100 milligrams of aspirin a day really could help prevent everything from heart attacks to cancer. Previous research has suggested that taking daily aspirin offers protection against certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

But according to a trio of studies published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine, a daily low-dose aspirin regimen provides no significant health benefits for healthy older adults.

"But we have not identified results that are strikingly different", McNeil said in an email.

And if that weren't enough, the third study also found that aspirin may have "higher all-cause mortality. among apparently healthy older adults who received daily aspirin than among those who received [a] placebo and was attributed primarily to cancer-related death".

A trial of aspirin in the elderly was first called for in the early 1990s.

For cardiovascular disease, the rate was 10.7 events per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person-years in the placebo group - also considered no difference.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said: "For the treatment of heart disease, or for those who have suffered heart attacks, aspirin has been a "wonder drug".