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Kiwi research could make aspirin safer for heart attack patients

Kiwi researchers are trying to find out how long to give blood-thinning treatments to heart attack survivors.

Dr Philip Adamson

"It is easy to see how patient outcomes have dramatically improved over recent years as a result of prior research. I thoroughly enjoy the intellectual challenge of working out how to find answers to unresolved clinical questions and feel an obligation to continue to improve patient care through greater understanding of diseases and their treatments." – Dr Philip Adamson.

Thousands of New Zealanders take blood thinning medications to reduce their risk of heart disease, but the drug's blood-thinning action carries a potentially fatal risk of causing internal bleeding.

The Heart Foundation funded research will be led by Dr Philip Adamson, Consultant Cardiologist at Canterbury District Health Board and Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Christchurch Heart Institute, University of Otago, and will try and reduce the harm medications such as these can cause.

The Heart Foundation announced $3.7 million of funding today for heart research and specialist training for New Zealand cardiologists in 2019, bringing the total awarded by the charity since its formation in 1968, to more than $74 million dollars.

Patients who have had a heart attack are currently treated with two blood thinning medications; aspirin over the long-term in combination with a second medication for a shorter 12-month period.

But no-one knows the optimal time period a patient should receive the second medication for.

This research involves two studies, the Heart Foundation-funded study will involve more than 2,000 New Zealand patients who have had a heart attack and were treated in the standard manner. Blood samples collected from these patients will be used to find out which blood tests can then predict the patients who have bleeding complications from their treatment. 

This work will lead to an international trial, soon to start in New Zealand, where more than 19,000 patients who have had a heart attack will be given the second blood thinning medication for either three or 12 months. 

Every year within New Zealand, 10,000 patients are admitted to hospital with a heart attack and one in five of these will die during the following year.

Dr Adamson hopes the study will help to understand why recurrent heart attacks occur and how these can best be prevented.

"The Heart Foundation is essential to the research work I do. Here in New Zealand we have excellent health researchers and patients who are very willing to participate in clinical studies. However, as a small country without a large biomedical industry we are heavily reliant on charitable organisations such as the Heart Foundation to support our work." – Dr Philip Adamson.

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