Heart attack remains one of the significant causes for mortality in more than 10 million people all over the world. It accounts for 29.2 percent of total global deaths according to the World Health Organization. People who survive the episode require long-term care and support. Amongst the risk factors, the important ones are obesity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A majority of the deaths can now be prevented by a combination of aspirin and another drug Clopidogrel. The drug combination has been found to be very effective in preventing the clot formation in such patients.
Aspirin is a standard emergency treatment given to heart attack patients and the proposed drug (Clopidogrel) is the world's fourth biggest-selling drug. If the clopidogrel therapy was instituted to just 1 million people then more than 10000 deaths, non-fatal repeat heart attacks and stroke could be prevented.
The efficacy of the drug has been studied in a group of 45,800 patients against a placebo and patients who received 75 milligrams of the drug daily, in addition to an aspirin or other treatment for 4 weeks, had a 7 % and 14 % reduction in death rate and repeat heart attack rate respectively.
The researchers also found that using the blood pressure drug metoprolol intravenously and then orally as an emergency treatment for heart attacks reduced the relative risk of a repeat attack but raised the odds of cardiac shock, especially in the first day or so after being admitted to hospital.
The drug is complementary to aspirin but works in a different way. Only about two weeks of treatment with the drug would be needed so the costs would be small. The safety and the efficacy of the drug have also been satisfactory. Hence it has been suggested that the drug be used routinely on top of aspirin to produce a moderate yet significant health benefit in the emergency treatment of heart attack.