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Antiplatelet agents

Antiplatelets are medicines that prevent blood clots from forming. Read about the different types of antiplatelets, how they work, and their side effects.

Types of antiplatelet agents

Antiplatelets in tablet (oral) form:

  • aspirin, also called Cartia, Aspro, Aspec
  • clopidogrel, also called Plavix
  • prasugrel, also called Effient
  • ticagrelor, also called Brilinta
  • dipyridamole, also called Persantine.

Antiplatelets given in hospital:

  • integrilin, also called Eptifibatide.

How do they work?

Antiplatelets are medicines that stop cells in the blood (platelets) from sticking together and forming a clot. A blood clot can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Aspirin is the most common antiplatelet. At a low dose, aspirin reduces inflammation in the arteries. You may be put on aspirin to lower your risk of getting heart disease.

Other antiplatelets may be prescribed when you’ve had a heart event or your risk of having one is higher.

Integrilin is given in hospital via infusion (through a drip).

Side effects

Common side effects include:

  • bruising more easily 
  • bleeding for longer if you cut yourself
  • upset stomachs
  • heavy periods
  • nose bleeds.

If you have any of the following, contact your health professional:

  • blood in your urine (wee)
  • blood in your stools (poo)
  • coughing up blood
  • vomiting blood
  • haematoma (a large bruise that forms a lump)
  • ringing in your ears.

Ring 111 if you have any of the following:

  • severe chest pain
  • severe headache
  • sudden shortness of breath
  • sudden weakness or numbness in your face, arm or leg
  • difficulty speaking, jumbled words or lose your voice
  • swelling of your mouth, lips or tongue, as this could be an allergic reaction.

Talk to your doctor if your side effects are worrying you. Don't stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first. The benefits usually outweigh the side effects.

What checks will I need?

You shouldn't need any regular tests for your antiplatelet medications.

What happens if I miss a dose?

It's important to take your antiplatelet medication daily and not to skip a dose.

If you forget to take dose, take it immediately, then continue as normal the following day. However, if it's almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue as normal.

Do NOT take a double dose.

What else do I need to know when taking antiplatelets?

Tell your health professionals if you're taking any:

  • supplements
  • natural medicines
  • vitamins
  • alternative therapies.

These can sometimes make your heart medications less effective.

Talk to your doctor about pregnancy or breastfeeding if you’re on antiplatelets and these apply to you.

If you need surgery or treatment for other conditions (not heart-related) and you’re on antiplatelet treatment, it is vital you talk to your doctor about it. It’s really important you don't stop your antiplatelet medication without talking to your doctor first.

You may like to consider getting a Medic Alert bracelet or carrying an identification card.

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