Background: In addition to the treatment of specific cardiovascular risk factors, intervention which interferes with the general mechanisms of atherosclerosis could further reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events. We aimed to investigate in general practice the efficacy of antiplatelets and antioxidants in primary prevention of cardiovascular events in people with one or more major cardiovascular risk factors.
Methods: We did a randomised controlled open 2x2 factorial trial to investigate low-dose aspirin (100 mg/day) and vitamin E (300 mg/day) in the prevention of cardiovascular events, in people with one or more of the following: hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes, obesity, family history of premature myocardial infarction, or individuals who were elderly.
Findings: 4495 people (2583 female, mean age 64.4 years) were included in the trial. After a mean follow-up of 3.6 years the trial was prematurely stopped on ethical grounds when newly available evidence from other trials on the benefit of aspirin in primary prevention was strictly consistent with the results of the second planned interim analysis. Aspirin lowered the frequency of all the endpoints, being significant for cardiovascular death (from 1.4 to 0.8%; relative risk 0.56 [95% CI 0.31-0.99]) and total cardiovascular events (from 8.2 to 6.3%; 0.77 [0.62-0.95]). Severe bleedings were more frequent in the aspirin group than the no-aspirin group (1.1% vs 0.3%; p<0.0008). Vitamin E showed no effect on any prespecified endpoint. Analyses were by intention-to-treat.
Interpretation: In women and men at risk of having a cardiovascular event because of the presence of at least one major risk factor, low-dose aspirin given in addition to treatment of specific risk factors contributes an additional preventive effect, with an acceptable safety profile. The results on vitamin E's cardiovascular primary preventive efficacy are not conclusive per se, although our results are consistent with the negative results of other large published trials on secondary prevention.