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Study: Plavix Improves Heart Attack Survival

Consider Drug as Part of Immediate Hospital Treatment, Say Researchers
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 3, 2005 -- New research shows that the drug Plavix may help people survive heart attacks.

Plavix should be considered for almost all patients hospitalized for suspected heart attacks, the researchers report in The Lancet.

Plavix is used to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with heart disease.

Plavix is an antiplatelet drug. That is, it blocks platelets -- which are a component of blood -- from sticking together in clots. Blood clots can prompt a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers included Zhengming Chen, MBBS, DPhil, of England's University of Oxford. The study was partially funded by drug companies Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb, the makers of Plavix. Sanofi-Aventis is a WebMD sponsor.

Treatment Started Quickly

The study included more than 45,000 people throughout China. Each had been hospitalized within 24 hours of the onset of a suspected heart attack.

All patients got standard medical care and aspirin. Half were also given Plavix; the rest got a fake pill (placebo). No one knew which patients got Plavix.

Patients took the drugs until they went home or for 28 days, whichever came first, starting within hours of hospital admission. They took the pills for an average of 15 days.

The Plavix group had 7% fewer deaths of any cause than the placebo group during the study.

The researchers also bundled together the risk of three other problems: stroke, repeat heart attack, and death from heart attack. The Plavix group had a 9% edge in that category.

Although antiplatelet medications can cause increased bleeding, no significant rise in fatal bleeding was seen in this study, the researchers note. There was an increased risk for minor bleeding such as from the gums or easy skin bruising.

Saving Thousands?

Every year, about 10 million people worldwide have heart attacks, write the researchers.

If a million of those heart attack patients got Plavix as part of early hospital care, it would save 5,000 lives and prevent an equal number of heart attacks and strokes, "probably with no great increase in major bleeding," write Chen and colleagues.

Second Opinion

Chen's study gets support in an editorial in The Lancet.

The finding "represents a major advance in the care of patients with acute [heart attack]," writes editorialist Marc Sabatine, MD, MPH.

Sabatine notes that the study showed "clear benefit" for a broad range of patients and patterns of practice.

Sabatine works in the cardiovascular division of Harvard Medical School and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. He wasn't involved in Chen's study.

Sabatine he has received grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb and served on scientific advisory boards for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis.

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