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PURPOSE: Preclinical studies support a protective role for aspirin in early diabetic retinopathy (DR), but the findings from randomized trials are limited. We present randomized evidence for the efficacy and safety of aspirin on DR outcomes. DESIGN: A substudy of the A Study of Cardiovascular Events in Diabetes (ASCEND) double-masked, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 100 mg aspirin daily for the primary prevention of serious cardiovascular events in people with diabetes. PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen thousand four hundred eighty United Kingdom adults at least 40 years of age with diabetes. METHODS: Linkage to electronic National Health Service Diabetic Eye Screening Programme records in England and Wales and confirmation of participant-reported eye events via medical record review were carried out. Log-rank methods were used for intention-to-treat analyses of time until the first primary efficacy and safety outcomes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary efficacy end point was the first record of referable disease after randomization, a composite of referable retinopathy or referable maculopathy based on the grading criteria defined by the United Kingdom National Screening Committee. The primary safety outcome was the first sight-threatening eye bleed, defined as clinically significant bleeding in the eye that resulted in unresolved visual loss or required an urgent intervention such as laser photocoagulation, vitreoretinal surgery, intraocular injection, or a combination thereof. RESULTS: Linkage data were obtained for 7360 participants (48% of those randomized in ASCEND). During the mean follow-up of 6.5 years, 539 participants (14.6%) experienced a referable disease event in the aspirin group, compared with 522 participants (14.2%) in the placebo group (rate ratio, 1.03; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.91-1.16; P = 0.64). No statistically significant between-group difference was found in the proportions of sight-threatening eye bleed events (57 participants [0.7%] and 64 participants [0.8%], respectively; rate ratio, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.62-1.27). DISCUSSION: These data exclude any clinically meaningful benefits of aspirin for DR, but give reassurance regarding the ophthalmologic safety of aspirin. FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE(S): Proprietary or commercial disclosure may be found in the Footnotes and Disclosures at the end of this article.

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Aspirin, Diabetic retinopathy, Randomized controlled trial