When is an aspirin a day good public health policy?

Should physicians be mandated to prescribe a daily aspirin as preventive care?

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, two-time TEDMED speaker David Agus talks about when, if ever, encouraging proven preventive behavior should be made public policy, similar to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s restrictions on trans fats and soda sizes.

Why not aspirin? The 2,000-hear-old drug, he posits, has shown great benefit in reducing cardiovascular risks and cancer in recent studies as well as, of course, being an effective pain reliever. As we are all essentially paying for one another’s medical bills via Medicare, Medicaid and other taxpayer-financed health programs, it should be public policy for middle-aged people without adverse risk factors to use it. As he says:

The data are screaming out to us. Aspirin, one of the oldest remedies on the planet, helps prevent heart disease through what is likely to be a variety of mechanisms, including keeping blood clots from forming. And experts believe it helps prevent cancer, in part, by dampening an immune response called inflammation.

So the question remains: given the evidence we have, why is it merely voluntary for physicians to inform their patients about a health care intervention that could not only help them, but also save untold billions in taxpayer dollars each year?

Read the entire piece here.

And below is Agus’s speech at TEDMED 2011, in which he talks about the latest research on what works to prevent most major diseases.