Plavix vs. Aspirin Alone: Is there a difference?

Plavix is prescribed by physicians in order to reduce the risk of a new heart attack or stroke in patients who have a recent history of heart attack or stroke. Plavix and aspirin are both used to reduce the amount of platelets in the blood, which can clump together to form blood clots. These blood clots can cut off supply of blood to the heart or brain, causing a stroke or heart attack. Real questions remain, however, as to whether aspirin is just as effective as and safer than Plavix and aspirin used together.

In 2010, the FDA released a new warning for Plavix stating that some people lack the correct liver enzyme needed to metabolize Plavix into its active form, leaving people susceptible to another heart attack or stroke because the drug is completely ineffective for that population. In order to determine whether a patient possesses the specific liver enzyme needed to metabolize Plavix, a genetic test must be performed. These tests are not inexpensive – and either is the cost of a Plavix pill. Aspirin, on the other hand, is a cheap and easy option.

Plavix is often prescribed in combination with aspirin, and a study done in the New England Journal of Medicine found that taking Plavix with aspirin was “not significantly more effective” than taking aspirin alone in lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke. In addition, this combination is more deadly than aspirin alone as it results in increased bleeding risks. While Plavix was initially thought to lower bleeding risks compared to other anti-platelet drugs, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed an increased risk of both minor and major bleeding incidents, similar to that experienced in patients prescribed warfarin.

This information has been available to physicians for several years, and physicians continue to prescribe the billion dollar drug Plavix, when aspirin may do the job just as well, with less risk and at a cheaper price.