The Basis of Platelets
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Platelet activation subsequent to the adhesion of platelets to the vascular wall results in the release of mediators that promote platelet aggregation, which plays a pivotal role in the development of the polyvascular atherosclerotic disease that can be referred to by the acronym ‘ATIS’ (AtheroThrombosIS). The currently available antiplatelet drugs used to prevent vascular events in patients with cardiovascular disease, including peripheral arterial disease (PAD), include aspirin and thienopyridines such as clopidogrel. These drugs decrease platelet aggregability, each of them by inhibiting a different pathway of platelet activation and recruitment. Aspirin acts by inhibiting thromboxane A2 (TXA2) formation through the inhibition (acetylation) of cyclo-oxygenase. On the other hand, thienopyridines suppress the platelet aggregation adenosine diphosphate (ADP) pathway by inhibiting the platelet P2Y12 subtype of the ADP receptor.
The results of the large ATT (Antithrombotic Trialists’ Collaboration) meta-analysis of published clinical studies on aspirin, reported in 2002, confirmed the previous meta-analysis and major trials that treatment with aspirin (mixed with other antiplatelet agents in these large metaanalyses) can prevent vascular events in high-risk patients with cardiovascular disease. However, it must be stressed that specifically in PAD patients no significant effect of aspirin was demonstrated in a more recent meta-analysis. This was also the case for primary and secondary prevention in diabetic patients. In keeping with these observations, neither a five-year follow-up study of Japanese diabetic patients in the JPAD (Japanese Primary Prevention of Atherosclerosis with Aspirin for Diabetes) study, a seven-year follow-up study of UK diabetic patients with PAD in the POPADAD (Prevention of Progression of Arterial Disease and Diabetes) study, nor a very recent Scottish study in the same population of diabetics with PAD revealed a significant beneficial effect for aspirin in preventing ischaemic events. This failure may be a consequence of more rapid recovery of platelet aggregability following each dose of aspirin in these PAD or diabetic populations, with the accelerated platelet turnover resulting in a condition of aspirin resistance.
Results of the large scale CAPRIE (Clopidogrel versus Aspirin in Patients at Risk of Ischaemic Events) trial that evaluated clopidogrel in patients with cerebral infarction, myocardial infarction or PAD have found clopidogrel to be significantly more effective than aspirin in preventing ischaemic events in patients with PAD. Furthermore, a subgroup analysis of the study has confirmed the efficacy of clopidogrel in diabetic patients with PAD, showing a significant reduction of events in clopidogrel-treated, compared with aspirin-treated, diabetic patients. These results are also likely to be attributable to the greater frequency of aspirin resistance in aspirin-treated patients in these populations (diabetics and/or PAD).
Platelets, through activation and aggregation, have an important role in ATIS. However, although antiplatelet therapy with low-dose aspirin has been reported to prevent vascular events in high-risk patients with cardiovascular disease, recent studies in patients with PAD or diabetes mellitus have failed to support the efficacy of aspirin in preventing vascular events in these patient populations. In contrast, clopidogrel appears to be a useful antiplatelet agent in the prevention of vascular events in patients with PAD or diabetes.
KeywordsAspirin Clopidogrel Peripheral Arterial Disease Vascular Event Ischaemic Event
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