Pill seen as advance for 'mild heart attack'
ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- A pink pill called Plavix could change the way people with chest pains are treated and save thousands of lives, researchers told a meeting of the American College of Cardiology Monday.
These severe chest pains -- unstable angina and non-Q-wave myocardial infarction, also known as "mild heart attack" -- are the most common reason that people with heart problems go to the hospital.
Plavix, also known as clopidegrel, is an anti-platelet drug that works similar to aspirin.
"We studied patients with what's called acute coronary syndromes," said Dr. Shamir Mehta, a cardiologist with McMasters University. "These are patients who have chest pain, but it's not an actual heart attack. Although they're at risk of having a major heart attack within the next several days or the next year."
The CURE (Clopidogrel in Unstable Angina to Prevent Recurrent Ischemic Events) trial found the drug could reduce further heart problems by 20 percent. Researchers said deaths, heart attacks and strokes could be reduced by nearly 100,000 if patients with acute coronary syndromes take both aspirin and Plavix. The study included 12,562 patients in 28 countries.
Doctors applauded the researcher's presentation of the study results at the American College of Cardiology meeting.
"It's the super aspirin that lived up to its name," said Dr. Christopher Cannon, with Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
In the study, patients were given four tablets of Plavix at the hospital and were prescribed a pill a day for up to 12 months. Patients took the Plavix in addition to aspirin. The drug's benefit was similar to results seen in patients who have balloon angioplasty or stenting procedures. Researchers said some patients could benefit by taking the drug for up to three years.
Dr. Salim Yusuf, the lead researcher from McMasters University, who presented the findings, said the drug "will benefit up to half a million patients every year." He emphasized both the short-term and the long-term benefits and predicted that all physicians, aggressive or conservative, would be pleased with the option.
Plavix should become part of routine care for patients with acute coronary syndromes, researchers recommended, but doctors should also prescribe treatments that are already proven. For example, 10- to 15-percent of patients who could benefit from taking aspirin are not being advised to take it.
While aspirin costs just pennies a day, Plavix is more expensive at $2 to $3 a day. Plavix, manufactured by Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Synthelabo, is already on the market for the treatment of other heart conditions.
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