Antiplatelet drugs are used to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes and to treat people who have artery blockages in their legs. They work by reducing the formation of blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
These medications are widely used, primarily because aspirin is one of them. Your doctor might also refer to them as "blood thinning" drugs. Technically, they don't actually thin the blood; instead, they interfere with an important part of the process by which the blood clots. Namely, they decrease the clumping of blood cells called platelets. This lowers the risk that potentially harmful blood clots will form. Some people might be prone to the formation of such clots. In people whose arteries have narrowed from atherosclerosis—the "hardening of the arteries" that is the basis of coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease (in the legs and neck, for example)—blood clumping and clotting can become dangerous.
This report evaluates the use of antiplatelet drugs in preventing heart attacks, strokes, and premature death in people who have acute coronary syndrome (unstable angina or had a heart attack), peripheral vascular disease, a stent, or previously had a stroke. Five of these medications are evaluated in this report: aspirin, a fixed combination of aspirin plus extended-release dipyridamole (Aggrenox), clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Effient), and ticlopidine (Ticlid and generic).