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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Heart drug pairing could save 10,000
Heart attack victim
One in five heart attacks, strokes or deaths from heart disease could now be prevented
A combination of heart drugs could help save 10,000 lives each year in the UK, say scientists.

A study at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, suggested one in five heart attacks, strokes or deaths from heart disease could be prevented.

They found the drug Clopidogrel (Plavix) had excellent results when teamed with the standard therapy of aspirin.

A quarter of a million people in the UK die each year from heart disease, which accounts for 40% of all UK deaths and costs the UK economy 10bn a year.

These results are probably the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of coronary heart disease, since the introduction of aspirin in the 1980's

Dr Marcus Flather

Cutting costs

But doctors say the new treatment, of one clopidogrel and one aspirin tablet, could mean an extra lease of life for the daily cost of just 1 a day.

Plavix, which was co-developed by Sanofi-Synthelabo and Bristol-Myers Squibb, has been available in the UK since 1998 for patients with coronary heart disease.

But the study showed patients suffering from unstable angina or a suspected heart attack recovered best when the drug was combined with aspirin.

Heart monitor
The drug costs as little as 1 a day

Scientists from the Clinical Trials and Evaluation Unit (CTEU) at the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust teamed up with colleagues from McMaster University, Canada to study 12,000 patients from 28 countries.

'Dramatic benefits'

Dr Marcus Flather, a cardiologist at the Royal Brompton said: "These results are probably the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of coronary heart disease, the UK's number one killer, since the introduction of aspirin in the 1980's.

"Clopidogrel taken with aspirin will provide dramatic benefits to a wide range of patients.

"The beauty of it all is that it's just a simple treatment, all patients need do is take a single tablet every day.

"We hope that in the future the results can be used for most people with coronary heart disease."

Dr Ameet Bakhai, from the CTEU said: "It really is a magnificent breakthrough."

Belinda Linden, of the British Heart Foundation, said it was important the drugs benefits were carefully assessed before use.

She said: "Although this is good news for many people, there are other ways to treat acute coronary syndrome and both aspirin and clopidogrel have some side effects.

"The benefits of using this therapy must be weighed against the potential risks in each individual case."

The results are due to be published in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.

But in an accompanying commentary in the Lancet, Dr Rod Stables, of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the Cardiothoracic Centre questioned the long term benefits of clopidogrel for people who had invasive treatments such as balloon angioplasty.

The BBC's Karen Allen
"Heart disease is still the UK's biggest killer"
The BBC's Julie Etchingham
reports from London's Royal Brompton Hospital
Dr Marcus Flather and Prof Desmond Julian
"This is exciting research"
See also:

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