Famotidine has been found to prevent the common stomach complaints suffered by thousands of people taking low doses of aspirin.
Aspirin is widely used for its anti-clotting activity in the heart and brain, as well as by patients with diabetes.
But aspirin has long been known to cause damage to the lining of the stomach and upper intestine, which results in peptic ulcer bleeding, perforation, and death.
Research from the University of Glasgow has found the drug famotidine is effective in the preventing stomach and upper intestinal ulcers, and damage to the gullet.
The phase III study, which will be published online in the Lancet, looked at adults from Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, taking 75mg to 325mg of aspirin per day with or without cardioprotective drugs. Half the patients were given famotidine twice a day and the other half received a placebo.
Researchers found that stomach ulcers developed in 3% of patients given famotidine compared with 15% given placebo. Upper-intestinal or duodenal ulcers were found in just one patient (0.5%) in the famotidine group compared with 17% of those given placebo, while gullet ulcers occurred in 4% of famotidine patients compared with 19% of placebo patients.
Study leader Dr Ali S Taha wrote: ‘Famotidine is effective in the prevention of gastric and duodenal ulcers, and erosive oesophagitis in patients taking low-dose aspirin.’