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Aspirin, Plavix Equally Effective in People with Peripheral Artery Disease

Feb 22, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

People who have peripheral artery disease might do just as well taking low-dose aspirin as they do on Plavix, a much more expensive option.   According to a report from HealthDay News, a newly-published study found little difference in symptom relief between people with disorder who were treated with Plavix, and those given aspirin therapy .

According to the American Heart Association, peripheral artery disease is the narrowing and/or blockage of the arteries in the pelvis and legs.  The symptoms of the disorder including  cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs that go away with rest, but return when a person begins walking.  Patient with the disorder face an increased risk of heart attack and stroke from blood clots traveling from the legs to the heart or brain, and are often given blood thinners, like Plavix, to prevent this complication.

According to HealthDay News, aspirin was not thought to be a good option for patients with peripheral artery disease, because animal studies had indicated the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin could block the growth of blood vessels that would help get more blood to leg tissue.  But in a study conducted by researchers in Germany and Sweden, patients symptoms improved regardless of which treatment they received.

The study, published this week in the journal Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Disease, involved 229 patients who were randomly assigned either low-dose aspirin or Plavix.  The efficacy of the drugs was compared by gauging how far and long patients could travel pain-free on one hour walks.    In 12 weeks, aspirin patients improved pain-free walking distance almost 40 percent and could walk 35 percent longer before pain made it too hard to continue.  The Plavix group experienced a 33 percent improvement in walking distance and an almost 35 improvement in pain-free walking time. 

"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," the researchers concluded.

"Either aspirin or Plavix is acceptable as a good preventive measure to avoid heart attack or stroke in these patients," Dr. Juan Zambrano, an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine, coronary/endovascular and stem cell therapies at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine told HealthDay News. "A lot of people favor aspirin because it's cheaper."

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