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Brand Name(s)
Generic Name(s)
Acetylsalicyclic Acid

Legal Classification of medication

POM, P, and GSL

Aspirin can be obtained from pharmacies (P) and non-pharmacy retail outlets (GSL), pack sizes and the strength of aspirin will be limited when purchased from these places. Aspirin can also be obtained on prescription (POM) and the quantity and strength dispensed will at the discretion of the practitioner.

Aspirin comes in three different formulations;

  • Tablets
  • Dispersible tablets
  • Suppositories

The strengths available are; 75mg, 150mg, and 300mg

Class of drug

Aspirin belongs to a group of pain killers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAID's)


Aspirin is an analgesic (pain killer), an antipyretic (temperature reducer), an anti-inflammatory and an anti-platelet. It can be used for the relief of mild to moderate pain such as toothaches, migraines, period pains and to relieve the symptoms of cold and flu such as fever. Aspirin can be taken by people who have had or are at risk of coronary heart disease. Higher doses can be used in the management of pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

How does it work?

When the body becomes ill or injured, chemicals called prostagaldins are released into the body. Aspirin works by blocking the production of prostagladins, resulting in the body being less aware of pain/injury. Aspirin reduces a fever by targeting the part of the brain which deals with temperature control.

How is it taken?

Absorption is rapid from the gastrointestinal tract but absorption after rectal dose is less reliable.

Aspirin is usually taken by mouth.

The usual dose of aspirin as an analgesic and antipyretic is 300-900mg, repeated every 4 to 6 hours, maximum of 4g daily. The dose for suppositories is 600mg-900mg every 4 hours with a maximum dose of 3.6g daily.

Patients taking aspirin as for cardiovascular reasons the dose is usually 75mg-300mg daily.

Gastrointestinal disturbances can occur in people taking aspirin orally, this can be avoided by taking aspirin after with or after food.

Pregnancy and Breast feeding

Aspirin should not be taken in the latter stages of pregnancy. As with all medicines during pregnancy, advice should be sought from a doctor before use.

A considerable amount of aspirin could pass into the milk and for that reason it is advised that aspirin is not taken whilst breast feeding. A safer alternative that can be sued during pregnancy or breast feeding is paracetamol.


The use of aspirin in children under the age of 16 and in breast feeding should be avoided because of the risk of developing Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome is a rare but fatal condition affecting the brain and liver.

Patients who have active peptic ulceration or a history of peptic ulceration should avoid aspirin unless instructed by the doctor.

Side effects

Most common side-effects are the following:

  • Nausea
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia)
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Less common side-effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fluid retention
  • Ankle swelling
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Worsening of asthma
Author: Mr Shiraz Mughal, MPharmS
Editor: Dr Shazan Chughtai, MB BS

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