Aspirin is a medication that has been around for a very long time. It was patented by Bayer in the 1800s but was used in different forms for decades prior. It is used for a variety of indications. Some people use aspirin for aches and pains, but it also serves as an anti-platelet medication used to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
How does aspirin work?
Aspirin is part of a drug class called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs work by inhibiting the COX enzyme (cyclooxygenase), which in turn reduces the production of prostaglandins leading to reduced pain, fevers, and inflammation. Aspirin is also considered an anti-platelet medication, which works by preventing the platelets in your blood from clumping together and causing a clot. However, because aspirin works in the blood, the main side effects associated with aspirin are bruising and bleeding. Increased bruising is common for those taking aspirin. Aspirin can also decrease the helpful substances that protect the stomach, which sometimes can lead to serious types of bleeding, such as bleeding ulcers or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Because aspirin has been related to serious types of side effects, it has been looked at more closely with further drug studies in recent years. The studies looked at whether aspirin should be used as frequently as it is for stroke and heart attack prevention. After the release of these studies, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released new recommendations about aspirin. Their recommendations state aspirin is still helpful in cardiovascular disease – we call this “secondary prevention”.
For example, if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke in the past, the benefits of aspirin therapy outweigh the risks. However, the risks of starting aspirin may outweigh the benefits for people who don’t meet the criteria for “secondary prevention” and would only take aspirin for what we call “primary prevention” (or preventing a first heart attack or stroke). The USPSTF recommends considering starting aspirin for primary prevention in certain people at higher risk for having one of these events. Adults who are at high risk aged 40-59 years old may still benefit from aspirin and should discuss the risks and benefits with a healthcare provider to determine whether to take aspirin for primary prevention. See reference number four for the full bulletin from the USPSTF.
What is Vazalore?
Vazalore is a new formulation of aspirin that came out in March of 2021 from PLx Pharma. It is the first liquid filled capsule containing aspirin. It comes in both an 81mg and 325mg capsule. According to the manufacturer’s website, Vazalore is an immediate release product designed to help protect the stomach. It was created with a new patented complex inside the capsule that helps limit the contact time between aspirin and the stomach. The company calls the complex PLxGuard and hopes to improve the delivery of more drugs beyond aspirin with this new technology too. The main difference between Vazalore and aspirin that is already available over the counter is that it is an immediate release product that offers stomach protection, but it isn’t the only aspirin product with stomach protection.
For people who need to take aspirin daily for prevention but need stomach protection, Vazalore could be a good product compared to regular, immediate-release aspirin. It may be especially useful if you need a faster-acting version of aspirin that protects the stomach. Enteric-coated (or safety coated) aspirin is another readily available and generic product designed to help protect the stomach but is released a little slower in the body. Enteric-coated aspirin tablets would also be a good option to offer stomach protection compared to immediate release aspirin products. The bottom line is that Vazalore is new and different, but there are still other safe options for taking daily aspirin that also protect the stomach, like enteric coated aspirin tablets. If you take aspirin for pain, Vazalore might provide a faster effect and offer stomach protection. Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re not sure whether you should be taking aspirin and find out which formulation might be the best for you.