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Your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist has a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of health topics. If you have a question about your health or medication, chances are, your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist knows the answer.

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Q: I recently hurt my knee, and I heard that aspirin could relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Is that true?

Hi. I’m Cynthia Widder, your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist. Welcome to Ask the Pharmacist.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world and the first non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to be discovered. People take aspirin as a pain reliever for minor aches and pains, headaches and to reduce fever. It is also an antiplatelet drug, so it can be prescribed in lower doses for patients to use as a blood thinner to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Aspirin can be used to treat mild inflammation and pain. It works by blocking the production of the molecules that regulate the body’s response to pain and inflammation. Although aspirin can be an effective medication, there are other anti-inflammatories that might be a better health fit for you due to a lowered risk of side effects. This is something to discuss with your doctor before starting to take aspirin.  

While aspirin is an over-the-counter medication, there are some patients with certain conditions for which aspirin is not usually recommended. For example:

Patients with medical conditions, such as ulcers, bleeding disorders like hemophilia and aspirin allergies. Patients who drink alcohol regularly or are undergoing dental or surgical treatment. Patients with asthma, uncontrolled hypertension, a previous peptic ulcer and liver or kidney problems, should be cautious about taking aspirin and should only do so if recommended by their doctor.

Patients who are pregnant should consult their doctor before using aspirin. As well, aspirin is not recommended for use in children under the age of 18, so consult your doctor to see if it could be the right choice.  

As with any medication, patients should take certain precautions and be aware of the side effects before taking aspirin.

The most common side effects of aspirin include:

Irritation of the stomach, indigestion and nausea. Less common, adverse effects include worsening asthma symptoms, vomiting, inflammation of the stomach, stomach bleeding and bruising.

There are also some common drug interactions to be aware of when taking aspirin, such as other anti-inflammatory painkillers, methotrexate (an anti-rheumatic and anti-cancer drug) and warfarin (a blood thinner).

These are not the only drugs that should not be taken with aspirin, which is why it’s important that you and your doctor decide if aspirin is a good choice for you before you take aspirin.

Always follow the label instructions carefully and if you have any questions, be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Until next time, this has been Ask the Pharmacist.

I wish you good health.

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