May 15, 2009 -- Chewable aspirin is absorbed faster and is more effective than regular aspirin that is either swallowed whole or chewed and then swallowed, a new study shows.
This "seemingly quite simple finding" could lead to improvements in the care of heart attack patients, researchers say.
Sean Nordt, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues, gave three different types of aspirin to 14 people between ages of 20 and 61. One group was given regular solid aspirin tablets and told to swallow the pills whole. Another was given regular aspirin tablets and told to chew the pills before swallowing. A third group was given chewable aspirin tablets, and swallowing occurred during chewing.
The researchers then measured levels of aspirin in the blood; researchers say the chewable aspirin consistently showed the greatest and fastest absorption rates.
The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Medicine in New Orleans.
Researchers say the study was done because current guidelines recommend chewing to increase absorption, but evidence that that's best is scant.
Thirteen of the 14 participants were men; the mean age was 31. Over the course of the study, each participant ingested each form of aspirin; 1,950 milligrams of aspirin (the equivalent of six regular aspirin tablets) was administered every time.
Measurements of blood showed clearly that aspirin was absorbed fastest when administered in chewable form and swallowed. "This supports the recommendation to use chewable [aspirin] formulation in the treatment of ACS," the researchers say. ACS refers to "acute coronary syndrome," the general medical term meaning heart attack or sudden onset of angina.
Current guidelines call for giving heart attack patients one aspirin tablet and for them to chew it to speed up its anti-blood-clotting properties.
Aspirin works within 15 minutes to prevent the formation of blood clots in people with known coronary artery disease. One adult-strength aspirin contains 325 milligrams. The current study suggests that 325 milligrams of chewable aspirin would be preferred in the setting of a heart attack or sudden onset of angina (chest pain). However, aspirin should still be taken under these circumstances if the chewable form is unavailable.
Aspirin use in patients with heart disease is common. People with known coronary disease often are told to take a "baby" aspirin (81 milligrams) daily to reduce their risk of heart attack of stroke.