Drugs that Prevent Blood Clotting Pros and Cons
Drugs that prevent blood clotting are prescribed to patients with a high risk of heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Normally, blood clots are a body’s natural response for healing cuts on the skin, inside the body and tears within blood vessels. In healthy individuals, after the area heals the clot dissolves. In people with clotting disorders this is not the always the case. Blood that clots too easily is sometimes called thick blood. Clots can stop blood flow to the brain, heart or other vital organs resulting in permanent damage or even death. In these cases, medications called blood thinners or anticoagulants are prescribed.
There are a variety of medications that prevent blood clotting available today, including Aspirin, Coumadin, Warfarin and Heparin. But Plavix, also known as Clopidogrel, is the second most commonly prescribed medication in the US raising over $6 billion in sales annually after Lipitor, a cholesterol medication. Similarly to any prescription or over the counter drug, those that prevent blood clotting carry their share of pros and cons that we will discuss below.
PROS: Drugs that prevent blood clotting are beneficial in that they save lives that would otherwise be lost to heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. Not only that these medications help dissolve existing clotting, they can help prevent the formation of new ones. Medications that prevent blood clotting help ward off dangerous health scenarios of blood clots breaking off and traveling to the brain or heart causing irreversible consequences.
CONS: However, with all medications it is essential to weigh the risks and benefits. Coumadin (Warfarin) is a commonly prescribed medication to prevent blood clotting. People who take warfarin will need to have their International Normalized Ratio (INR) checked regularly so that the dosage can be adjusted. You should take the medication at the same time every day. If you take Warfarin you should not drink alcohol. You should also be careful about not consuming foods high in vitamin K. In other words, if you are on Warfarin, you will have some extra work to keep things in balance. There is a chance of uncontrolled and also occult bleeding. Your doctor will tell you what to look out for and how to handle these complications. Women of childbearing years need to be particularly careful and work closely with their doctors. If you are facing surgery or dental work, it is important to discuss the implications with all your providers.
More common side effects of Plavix, a drug given to prevent blood clotting, include infections of the sinuses, throat or nose, back ache, pain and chest pain, indigestion, skin blotches, joint pain, dizziness, stomach cramps and head pain. In addition, Plavix and drugs with similar effects could be incredibly pricey, especially if taken over prolonged periods of time. In addition, each medication will carry its laundry list of side effects ranging from allergic reactions, spontaneous bleeding and even death.
Regardless of the blood thinning medication, each patient needs to discuss the risks versus benefits.