Antiplatelet medicine for heart attack and unstable angina


Generic Name Brand Name
clopidogrel Plavix
prasugrel Effient

How It Works

This medicine prevents the formation of blood clots.

Why It Is Used

Antiplatelet medicine is used for people who have unstable angina or a heart attack and people with angina who have angioplasty.

You may take an antiplatelet if you cannot take aspirin.

Or you may take an antiplatelet along with aspirin.

If you had angioplasty and got a stent, you will take antiplatelet medicines to help prevent another heart attack or a stroke. You will probably take aspirin plus another antiplatelet medicine. If you get a drug-eluting stent, you will probably take both of these medicines for at least one year. If you get a bare metal stent, you will take both medicines for at least one month but maybe up to one year. Then you will likely take daily aspirin long-term. If you have a high risk of bleeding, your doctor may shorten the time you take these medicines.

How Well It Works

Antiplatelet medicine, taken with aspirin, helps lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke in people who have had angioplasty with a stent. This medicine lowers the risk that blood will clot in the stent and cause a heart attack.1, 2

Antiplatelet medicine also may be used to lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke in people who have had a heart attack or unstable angina.

Side Effects

Some side effects of taking an antiplatelet drug may include:

  • Increased bleeding (hemorrhage) in the brain or other internal organs.
  • Bleeding in the stomach or intestines.
  • Increased bruising.
  • Stomach irritation.
  • Allergic reaction.
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia), low white blood cell count (neutropenia), and low red cell count (anemia).

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

What To Think About

Do not stop taking antiplatelet medicine without talking to your doctor. Make sure to take this medicine, especially if you have a stent. Antiplatelet medicine lowers the risk that blood will clot in the stent and cause a heart attack.

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. For example, you should not take prasugrel if you have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), if you already have a bleeding problem, or if you need surgery very soon.

If you have a high risk of bleeding from taking an antiplatelet, your doctor may suggest you take a proton pump inhibitor. This medicine will help prevent bleeding in your stomach. But a proton pump inhibitor medicine may keep an antiplatelet from working as well. If you are taking both aspirin and an antiplatelet, talk with your doctor about how you can lower your risk of bleeding.

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



  1. Grines CL, et al. (2007). Prevention of premature discontinuation of dual antiplatelet therapy in patients with coronary artery stents. A science advisory from the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, American College of Surgeons, and American Dental Association, with representation from the American College of Physicians. Circulation, 115(6): 813–818.
  2. Wiviott SD, et al. (2007). Prasugrel versus clopidogrel in patients with acute coronary syndromes. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(20): 2001–2015.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise 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. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.