Local News

UNC Researchers: Aspirin-Plavix Combo Beneficial To Heart Patients

Posted December 26, 2002 4:36 a.m. EST

— Each year, more than one million Americans have angioplasty to open blocked arteries. Even so, there is still a risk of future problems. But researchers are learning how medications doctors have been using in the short term may now show long-term benefits.

The annoying chest pains Jim Womble felt proved to be the first and only clue that he had coronary heart disease. Fortunately, doctors were able to clear his blocked arteries with angioplasty.

Even with angioplasty, patients are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke. To try and lower that risk, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied the long-term use of aspirin plus the drug Plavix.

Researchers found that patients taking the asprin/Plavix combination for one year, along with standard treatments, cut their risk of heart attack and stroke by 27 percent.

"The combinations of aspirin and Plavix have been shown to have a tremendous benefit in preventing blood clots," said researcher Dr. Steve Steinhubl, "blood clots being the major [factor] of heart attacks and strokes."

Steinhubl said most cardiologists are used to prescribing Plavix.

"It's very exciting to find a therapy we're comfortable with and used to," he said.

Womble said he is glad he took part in the study. Womble has been on the aspirin/Plavix combination all along, and he said he feels good about his odds of avoiding future heart attacks.

"It's very serious to me because I love to live," he said, "and I love being around people, so whatever I can do to keep my heart healthy, I'm going to try and do it."

Major guidelines for treating heart disease were updated this year to include the use of this new therapy.