Combined antiplatelet and anticoagulant therapy: clinical benefits and risks
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The combination of anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy is more effective than antiplatelet therapy alone for the initial and long-term management of acute coronary syndromes but increases the risk of bleeding. Antiplatelet therapy is often combined with oral anticoagulants in patients with an indication for warfarin therapy (e.g. atrial fibrillation) who also have an indication for antiplatelet therapy (e.g. coronary artery disease) but the appropriateness of such an approach is unresolved. Anticoagulation appears to be as effective as antiplatelet therapy for long-term management of acute coronary syndrome and stroke, and possibly peripheral artery disease, but causes more bleeding. Therefore, in such patients who develop atrial fibrillation, switching from antiplatelet therapy to anticoagulants might be all that is required. The combination of anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy has only been proven to provide additional benefit over anticoagulants alone in patients with prosthetic heart valves. The combination of aspirin and clopidogrel is not as effective as oral anticoagulants in patients with atrial fibrillation, whereas the combination of aspirin and clopidogrel is more effective than oral anticoagulants in patients with coronary stents. Whether the benefits of triple therapy outweigh the risks in patients with atrial fibrillation and coronary stents requires evaluation in randomized trials.
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