Can aspirin prevent depression in older adults?

Jul 29, 2016

ASPREE investigates effect of aspirin on depression


Many may have read with interest an article on the ASPREE-D sub-study in Fairfax Media’s The Sunday Age, The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Times and WA Today on July 24th.

Written by Andrew Masterton, the article, ‘Could an aspirin a day keep depression away,’ refers to one of the 15 sub-studies incorporated into the large ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) clinical trial.

ASPREE-D is studying whether aspirin can prevent depression in older adults, and is a collaboration between Monash University and Professor Michael Berk, Alfred Deakin Professor of Psychiatry at Deakin University’s School of Medicine. With a combined 19,114 participants in Australia and the USA, ASPREE-D forms one of the largest randomised controlled trials ever undertaken in psychiatry to provide definitive evidence of aspirin’s effect on depression.

Man with glasses is dressed in black jacket and blue shirt
Above: Prof Michael Berk Alfred Deakin Professor Centre: School of Medicine Area: Faculty of Health Campus: Barwon Health

Prof Berk said evidence suggests inflammation may play a role in older people developing depression. However, it is not known if this inflammation contributes to the onset or the severity of depression, or if it is a by-product. Aspirin has a well-known anti-inflammatory action.

The principal ASPREE trial aims to determine whether daily low-dose aspirin improves quality of life for older people around the world by preventing or delaying the onset of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and some cancers.

The double-blind randomised, placebo controlled trial is being undertaken in 16,703 older people in Australia and 2,411 in the USA, making it one of the largest clinical trials in the world.

In Australia, several ancillary studies are investigating the effect of aspirin on a range of health issues including age-related macular degeneration, cancer, osteoarthritis, bone fragility, severe infection, sleep apnoea, age-related hearing loss and microvascular changes in the brain.

Professor John McNeil, Principal Investigator to the ASPREE trial in Australia explained to Fairfax Media, “When you get to prevention in people over the age of 70 there are so many other medications that they have to be on – and there’s so much of an issue with side-effects and so on – that if you’re going to be giving them a drug for the rest of their lives, you really want to be aware of what it’s achieving, and that it’s doing more good than harm.

“It became quite evident that we just didn’t have that information – and for the most widely used drug in the world that’s a pretty big gap.”

The public-funded, investigator-led ASPREE trial is supported by more than 2,000 Australian GP co-investigators. Bayer Pharma (Germany) provide in-kind support for the trial through the provision of study medication and matching placebo tablet for the duration of the trial, but have no involvement in the study’s conduct.

Results of the ASPREE study are expected by mid 2018.

Read the full article here.

Updated 1.03.2021

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