Drugs to Treat Atherosclerosis
Drugs to Reduce the Risk of Blood Clots
Antiplatelets are blood thinners. They make blood less likely to clot, which can prevent heart attacks and strokes. However, antiplatelets don't slow down or reverse atherosclerosis.
Aspirin: Plain old aspirin is actually a powerful blood thinner. A baby aspirin a day reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 25% or more.
Clopidogrel (Plavix): Clopidogrel acts in a way similar to aspirin. This drug is particularly useful in preventing clots from forming inside stents placed in the heart's arteries.
Ticagrelor (Brilinta): Ticagrelor is similar to clopidogrel. This drug is less effective if patients take more than 100 milligrams a day of aspirin. A "baby aspirin" contains 81 milligrams of aspirin. An FDA "black box" warning alerts doctors to the risk of using higher doses of aspirin along with Brilinta.
Prasugrel (Effient): Take this medication by mouth with or without food, usually once a day or as directed by your doctor. Your doctor may direct you to take this medication with a low dose of aspirin (usually 81-325 milligrams a day).
Warfarin (Coumadin): This powerful blood thinner -- an anticoagulant -- is not generally used to treat atherosclerosis. Warfarin is used for other medical conditions involving blood clots (for example, atrial fibrillation and deep vein thrombosis). It has not been shown to be better than aspirin in preventing heart attacks.
The benefits of blood thinners come at the price of an increased risk of bleeding. For most people at risk from atherosclerosis, though, the benefits of antiplatelets outweigh the risks. Speak with your doctor before starting an aspirin or other any other heart medication.
There are no proven atherosclerosis cures yet. Completely reversing atherosclerosis isn't possible, but medication can reduce the risk of complications dramatically.