CHICAGO (AP) -- Long-term use of the blood thinner Plavix can significantly reduce the risk of death and bad side effects in angioplasty patients, a study found.
The promising results suggest there would be at least 24,000 fewer deaths, heart attacks and strokes combined annually if every U.S. patient who undergoes angioplasty were treated for one year with Plavix, the researchers said.
"We saw a big benefit," said Dr. Eric Topol of Cleveland Clinic. He helped conduct the research and also works as a consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Synthelabo, which market the drug and paid for the study.
Dr. Robert Bonow, president of the American Heart Association, called the results significant and said if confirmed in other studies, they could lead to changes in current practice.
"It's a big deal," Bonow said.
The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association and also was to be presented at Monday's session of the AHA's scientific meeting in Chicago.
Plavix, also known as clopidogrel, helps keep blood components called platelets from sticking together and forming clots. The pills are commonly used with aspirin for about one month after an angioplasty.
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