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Aspirin, Plavix Equally Effective in Patients with Blocked Leg Arteries

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For those who suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), it appears that Aspirin is just as effective as Plavix (clopidogrel) when it comes to treating painful symptoms. According to a new study, Aspirin is just as beneficial for alleviating leg pain that occurs while walking. The results debunk the previous notion that Aspirin would potentially worsen PAD patients’ condition. PAD is a condition in which the peripheral arteries become blocked and narrowed due to the buildup of plaque on blood vessel walls. This tends to occur most in the legs and pelvis. PAD can result in decreased blood flow to the limbs, blood clots and if left untreated, gangrene and amputation. According to the American Heart Association, people with PAD are four to five times more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke. The primary symptom, referred to as intermittent claudication, is pain that arises in the legs while walking that usually ceases upon rest. Due to the risk of blood clots, patients are often treated with blood thinners such as Plavix and Aspirin. Originally, medical professionals preferred Plavix to Aspirin-presumably because it was safer for the stomach. However, research findings have indicated that this may not be the case. In 2005, Dr. Francis K.L. Chan published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined the effects of the two drugs on ulcer patients; his findings suggest that taking an Aspirin with a heartburn pill is more likely to be effective than Plavix alone with regards to renewed ulcer bleeding. Plavix is also allegedly responsible for causing gastrointestinal and cerebral hemorrhaging leading to death. In terms of cost and convenience, Aspirin is cheaper and widely available over-the-counter. While Aspirin can be purchased for less than 10 cents per pill, Plavix can cost around $3-4 a pill. Now, new research results lend further evidence to Aspirin’s potential advantages over Plavix. Dr. Kurt Jaeger, from the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, compared the effectiveness of Aspirin versus Plavix in treating claudication in PAD patients. Jaeger tested a sample of 229 patients who were randomly

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assigned to receive either Plavix or low doses of Aspirin. The 12 week study tested the effects of both drugs on pain-free walking. Researchers looked at both the time and distance that patients could walk within one hour. In terms of distance, the Aspirin group showed a 40 percent improvement while the Plavix group showed a 33 percent improvement. Both groups showed an improvement of about 35 percent when it came to pain-free walking time. These findings are somewhat surprising, as previous animal-based studies led scientists to believe that Aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties would obstruct blood vessel growth and inhibit circulation. However, Jaeger’s team stated to HealthDay that “It seems that the anti-inflammatory properties of low-dose aspirin and its inhibiting effects on [the growth of new blood vessels] are not of clinical relevance for rehabilitation programs in intermittent claudication,” In addition to these findings, this study also highlights the importance of incorporating exercise, particularly walking, into a PAD patient’s treatment. These developments suggest that PAD patients taking Plavix may be able to switch to an equally helpful, less expensive alternative (with their doctor’s permission).

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