New pill for heart attack victims

Heart attacks could be saved by a new ‘super-aspirin’ drug.

Plavix , the brand name of the drug, taken – with other clot-stopping treatments- cuts the risk of death, researchers in the US have discovered. Aspirin and Plavix both prevent blood clots through different mechanisms.

Researchers concluded that the drug increases survival rates and helps patients to live longer. The findings came from a study of 46,000 patients by researchers from Oxford University and China.

All were treated for severe heart attacks where the artery was completely blocked, with treatments including clotbusters and low-dose aspirin to disperse the clots.

Around 3,500 were allocated to receive standard treatment and Plavix, which is also known as clopidogrel, or standard treatment plus a placebo – a dummy pill.

When patients returned to hospital for tests a week later, 22 per cent of those on placebo had died, suffered a second attack or still had a clogged artery.

Only 15 per cent of those taking a 75mg daily dose of Plavix had fared as badly in the study, which was the second largest yet to be conducted into emergency heart attack treatment.

The benefits were even seen in older patients and in those seeking help several hours after the onset of symptoms.

Plavix is the first drug in 12 years to show a clear survival benefit in patients with big heart attacks and could therefore become a standard of care for these patients,’ he added.

Dr Zhengming Chen, from Oxford’s Clinical Trial Service Unit, who presented the results at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, said: ‘This means that, on average, adding clopidogrel to current therapies benefits one out of every 100 patients.

‘So for every million having a heart attack, giving this simple additional treatment for about two weeks would save 5,000 lives and prevent another 5,000 repeat heart attacks or strokes.

He added: ‘As there are an estimated ten million heart attacks in the world every year, the findings from this study – if implemented appropriately widely – would make an important contribution to saving lives and reducing disability.’

The study also found that giving a beta-blocker drug to emergency-heart attack victims cut the risk of repeat attacks and life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances.

But early use of beta-blockers raised the risk of cardiac shock in the immediate aftermath of an attack.

The good and bad effects cancelled each other out, the researchers found, resulting in no overall increase in survival.

The use of aspirin for the emergency treatment of heart attacks had previously been shown to reduce the risk of death and further attacks by about a quarter.