Plavix: Your questions answered about this potentially dangerous drug

What is Plavix?

Plavix, or Clopidogrel,  is a blood thinner, manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, that is used to help prevent stroke, heart attack, and other heart problems. The drug is usually taken after a patient has suffered a heart attack or stroke and is used to prevent blood clots. Plavix is the sixth top selling drug in the U.S. with total sales around $4 billion dollars.

What are the side effects of Plavix?

Since Plavix is a blood thinner, the drug can make it easier for you to bleed, even from a minor injury such as a paper cut or scratch. In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, patients taking Plavix were 12 times more likely than those taking aspirin or a heartburn pill to experience severe gastrointestinal bleeding and chronic ulcers. The drug was additionally found to be linked to increased risk for serious bleeding and the study concluded that the cost and risks of Plavix didn’t justify it being used in the prevention of heart attack and stroke.

Other potential side effects:

  •  Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers
  • Fatal hemorrhaging
  • Cerebral bleeding
  • Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP): a rare blood condition that causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels throughout the body
  • Death

Is it bad to suddenly stop taking Plavix?

You should not stop using this drug suddenly. New research has found that the first three months after heart patients stop taking Plavix are the most dangerous. While this is the first study to make this observation, it is still important information. Remember to always consult a doctor before completely stopping any medication. The study, according to Michael Ho, cardiologist at Denver VA Medical Center and author of  a report in the Feb. issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assocation, does not address the main issue of how long Plavix can safely be taken.

The study looked at people who took different lengths of Plavix treatment and found a twofold increased risk in the 90-day period after stopping for patients who took it less than six months of greater than nine months. The final decision of whether to stop medication is between provider and patient.

Plavix vs. Aspirin 

In a study focusing on the combination of Plavix and aspirin, the section of the study was terminated and patients were told to stop taking Plavix and take aspirin only, as they found evidence that the Plavix-aspirin combination significantly increased the risk of death. The combination of drugs also increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and more than doubles fatal hemorrhaging.

Taking aspirin, rather than Plavix, can also save you money. Aspirin will cost you about $6/month, while Plavix will break the bank with around $200/month spent on the drug (the generic clopidogrel costs less.) It is hard to find a justification for a drug that not only increases your risks of death, but costs you money.

A Lancet study done in 1996 compared Plavix vs. aspirin for prevention of ischaemic, reduced blood supply to the heart, events. The study involved over 19,000 people over a span of one to three years. It found that “an intention-to-treat analysis showed that patients treated with clopidogrel had an annual 5.32% risk of ischaemic stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death compared with 5.83% with aspirin.” Intention-to-treat analysis is based on the initial treatment assignment and not on the treatment eventually received. This form of analysis is controversial within the medical community because of issues with missing data and adherence to protocol. It is shaky evidence like intention-to-treat analysis that makes us hesitant to believe the results of these studies were not “massaged” to achieve a desired result by the manufacturer.

What does Bristol-Myers Squibb have to say?

Last month, the manufacturer was accused in a lawsuit by Hawaii of failing to disclose that Plavix has little effect on the population and puts patient at risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Hawaii claims that Bristol-Myers Squibb unfairly labeled and marketed Plavix as being just as safe for elderly patients as it is for younger patients since 2001. In 2013, over 40 complaints were filed within New York State that Plavix is a dangerous drug to human health and unsuitable to be marketed in the U.S. Bristol-Myer Squibb believe that the lawsuits have no merit and continue to defend the claims vigorously.

Plavix received a black box warning in March of 2010, telling consumers that around 2-14% of the population can’t properly metabolize the drug and will not benefit from using it. In August of 2010, the consumer group Public Citizen urged the FDA to warn that stent implant recipients can suffer from fatal bleeding if they take Plavix for longer than a year.

If you, or a loved one, took Plavix and suffered from any of these devastating side effects, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation or fill out the free online case evaluation here. Don’t let the manufacturers get away with not properly warning of these side effects.

Sources: Bloomberg Business, Mercola, PubMed, ABC News