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Plavix is the most popular blood-thinning medication in the world, prescribed to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other ailments caused by blood clots. Recent research has linked the use of Plavix with a significant increase in stomach ulcers, internal bleeding, brain hemorrhages, and death. Plavix combined with aspirin may significantly increase your risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding.

Plavix-Aspirin Study Halted

Recently, a clinical study of Plavix combined with aspirin was ended when doctors found frightening results: Plavix used with Aspirin doubles a patient’s potential for experiencing a catastrophic bleeding event. Patients were also far more likely to suffer cardiovascular injury or death. Do not take Plavix with aspirin without first consulting a doctor regarding the results of this clinical study.

The results of the study:

  • 6.5% of Plavix-aspirin users experienced a serious bleeding event, compared with 3.3% of aspirin-only users.
  • 5.8% of Plavix users died, compared to only 4.1% of aspirin-only users.

The research was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in conjunction with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Over 3,000 patients participated in the study — all of whom were taking Plavix, aspirin, or a combination to prevent recurrent strokes. The doctors wanted to discover whether combining two stroke-preventing drugs would lower a patient’s chance of suffering “subcortical” strokes (these are strokes caused by tiny clots in the blood vessels in the brain).

The researchers found the side-effects greatly outweigh the benefits.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding is a life-threatening side effect of using Plavix. The initial signs are most often blood in the stool or vomit. Sometimes minor bleeding is symptomless, and blood is not always visible. Finding the location of the bleeding can also be very challenging, though modern diagnostic technology (such as X-rays, echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, and MRIs) have significantly improved the prognosis for people with gastrointestinal bleeding.

Gastrointestinal bleeding may occur anywhere in the abdomen, but is most frequently seen in the stomach, upper intestine, and lower intestine. Symptoms depend on many individual factors, such as where a person is bleeding, and how severe the bleeding. If you experience one of the following symptoms, seek emergency attention immediately, because you may be suffering from internal bleeding.

Acute cases of gastrointestinal hemorrhage will include vomiting blood, bloody bowel movements, or black, tarry stools that may resemble “coffee grounds.” Symptoms associated with blood loss include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale appearance

Gastrointestinal Bleeding Treatment

Treatments will depend on the location of the bleeding and how much blood is being lost:

  • Endoscopic thermal probe: Burns the blood vessel, ulcer, or abnormal tissue.
  • Endoscopic clips: These are clips that physically close a bleeding vessel or tissue.
  • Endoscopic band ligation: Like a rubber band, usually used to tie off bleeding hemorrhoids.
  • Endoscopic cryotherapy: Freezes bleeding vessels in the stomach
  • Endoscopic intravariceal cyanoacrylate injection: Injects a medical glue, used to treat bleeding in the stomach that does not respond to other treatments.
  • Angiographic embolization: An injection of particles directly into the blood vessel

A blood transfusion may be necessary when a person has severe bleeding.

What is the problem with Plavix?

Doctors usually prescribe Plavix to reduce a patient’s chance of forming a blood clot that might cause a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, or death. Plavix is a blood-thinner that prevents blood clots by inhibiting a blood-enzyme that is necessary for your blood-platelets to coagulate. Sometimes, blood clots are pumped through the bloodstream (this is known as an “embolism”). An embolism that travels to the heart, brain, lungs, or other organ can kill suddenly.

The FDA approved Plavix in 2007 to prevent strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolisms, but research has not shown it to be more effective than aspirin. Plavix has far more significant side effects than aspirin, however.

Research and Safety Warnings

  • The FDA issued the Plavix marketing-team a warning letter because the television ads “make representations and/or suggestions about the efficacy of Plavix, but fail to communicate any risk information associated with the use of this drug.”
  • The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) investigated whether Plavix was “easier on a person’s stomach” than aspirin, and found the opposite result: Plavix-users are12 times more likely to suffer stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and cerebral bleeding.
  • The Centers for Disease Control researched what happens when Plavix is used along with other popular medications (such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, or Aciphex, to name a few). They found the combinations inactivated Plavix. Someone on both medications would have very little protection against blood clots.

Other Plavix Side Effects

  • Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura
  • Cerebral bleeding
  • Bone Marrow Damage
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Ulcers
  • Death
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