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Antiplatelet Medicine for Peripheral Arterial Disease

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
clopidogrel Plavix

How It Works

Antiplatelets work in various ways to prevent blood clots.

Why It Is Used

This medicine may be used instead of aspirin, or along with aspirin, in people who have peripheral arterial disease. It might be used after a person has had a procedure such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.1

How Well It Works

This medicine can prevent the formation of blood clots in people who have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Antiplatelet medicines may help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who have PAD.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Allergic reaction

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Bleeding

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches. (It may be a sign of bleeding in the brain.)

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Any abnormal bleeding, such as:
    • Nosebleeds.
    • Vaginal bleeding that is different (heavier, more frequent, at a different time of the month) than what you are used to.
    • Bloody or black stools, or rectal bleeding.
    • Bloody or pink urine.

Other side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea.
  • Stomach pain or discomfort.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Risk of bleeding

Antiplatelet medicine increases the risk of bleeding. This risk of bleeding is higher in some people. Your doctor will balance the benefits and risks of an antiplatelet based on your health.

If you have a high risk of bleeding from taking an antiplatelet, your doctor may suggest you take a proton pump inhibitor or a histamine H2 acid reducer. This medicine may help prevent bleeding in your stomach. If you are taking both aspirin and an antiplatelet, talk with your doctor about how you can lower your risk of bleeding.

Testing for clopidogrel

A genetic test might be used if your doctor thinks that your body is not using clopidogrel properly. This test checks to see if you have genes that let your body use clopidogrel. But experts aren't yet sure whether genetic changes keep clopidogrel from preventing a heart attack or stroke.

This genetic test alone is not enough to tell whether the medicine will help you. You also may have a test that shows how your body's platelets are working to clot blood. Having a platelet test after you take an antiplatelet can show if the medicine is working.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments. And call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Anderson JL, et al. (2012). Management of patients with peripheral artery disease (compilation of 2005 and 2011 ACCF/AHA guideline recommendations): A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 127(13): 1425–1443.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Last Revised October 26, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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Antiplatelet Medicine for Peripheral Arterial Disease