Background Aspirin is widely administered to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, appropriate use of aspirin depends on patient understanding of its risks, benefits, and indications, especially where aspirin is available over the counter (OTC). Methods and Results We did a survey of patient-reported 10-year cardiovascular risk; aspirin therapy status; form of aspirin access (OTC versus prescription); and knowledge of the risks, benefits, and role of aspirin in CVD prevention. Consecutive adults aged ≥50 years with ≥1 cardiovascular risk factor attending outpatient clinics in America and Europe were recruited. We also systematically reviewed national policies regulating access to low-dose aspirin for CVD prevention. At each site, 150 responses were obtained (300 total). Mean±SD age was 65±10 years, 40% were women, and 41% were secondary prevention patients. More than half of the participants at both sites did not know (1) their own level of 10-year CVD risk, (2) the expected magnitude of reduction in CVD risk with aspirin, or (3) aspirin's bleeding risks. Only 62% of all participants reported that aspirin was routinely indicated for secondary prevention, whereas 47% believed it was routinely indicated for primary prevention (P=0.048). In America, 83.5% participants obtained aspirin OTC compared with 2.5% in Europe (P<0.001). Finally, our review of European national policies found only 2 countries where low-dose aspirin was available OTC. Conclusions Many patients have poor insight into their objectively calculated 10-year cardiovascular risk and do not know the risks, benefits, and role of aspirin in CVD prevention. Aspirin is mainly obtained OTC in America in contrast to Europe, where most countries restrict access to low-dose aspirin.
Keywords: aspirin; cardiovascular disease prevention; guidelines; patient understanding; regional variation.