Doctors often give heart attack patients medication to prevent the blood clots that could prompt another attack.
Plavix and aspirin are the most commonly used, but a stronger, anti-clotting drug called Ticagrelor appears to work better, according to a new study featured in the British Medical Journal The Lancet.
The study was funded by the makers of the drug, AstraZeneca.
“This is one of the very few studies that have shown a reduction in the risk of dying in heart attacks, or blood clots developing. This is really huge,” said Dr. Chet Rihal, of the Mayo Clinic.
With many anti-clotting medications there is a risk of internal bleeding. This treatment appears to reduce the death rate without increasing bleeding.
“This study shows that we may be able to have it both ways,” Rihal said.
Researchers found that if 1,000 patients were treated with Ticagrelor during a one-year period, it would lead to 11 fewer deaths and 13 fewer heart attacks.
But even doctors who are enthusiastic about the new findings say it could be a long time before the drug really proves itself.
“I would caution that we have to figure out how to use this medication in our every day clinical practice and assess the results in our own hands,” Rihal said.
The drug is now before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.