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2011 - Triple antiplatelet therapy in acute coronary syndromes

Heightened platelet activity plays a critical role in thrombus formation, which is central to acute coronary syndromes ( ACS ), including non-ST-segment elevation ( NSTE )-ACS ( comprising unstable angina pectoris and non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction [ NSTEMI ] ) and ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction ( STEMI ), and has been implicated in poor clinical outcome.

Platelets not only impact coronary thrombus but are major contributors to microcirculatory dysfunction and vascular inflammation.

Efforts to inhibit platelet function, including antiplatelet therapy, are paramount to the management of acute coronary syndromes; thus, a growing recognition of the various pathways driving platelet activity has given rise to the need for multiple agents that impart complimentary mechanisms of action.
While only inhibiting platelet activation will still allow for aggregation, i.e. the binding of glycoprotein ( GP ) IIb/IIIa receptors to fibrinogen, solely blocking aggregation may leave platelet-activating pathways free to sustain the production and release of various pro-inflammatory and pro-thrombotic compounds.

The benefit of triple antiplatelet therapy, referring to the combination of Aspirin, a thienopyridine or non-thienopyridine adenosine diphosphate (ADP)/P2Y12 receptor blocker and a GPIIb/IIIa inhibitor ( GPI ), has been demonstrated in patients with NSTE-ACS who ultimately undergo percutaneous coronary intervention ( PCI ) and are determined to be at an elevated risk for ischaemic events, and in patients undergoing primary PCI.

It is therefore recommended by the European Society of Cardiology ( ESC ) and American College of Cardiology / American Heart Association. Furthermore, the rationale for adding a GPI, particularly in patients with STEMI, is backed by studies that have shown negligible effects of a 600 mg Clopidogrel ( Plavix ) loading dose, despite being administered 4 hours prior to PCI.

Moreover, it has been observed that the physiological state of STEMI may deem dual antiplatelet therapy ineffective, because during an acute event the absorption of Clopidogrel may be impaired. Nonetheless, there is still considerable variability with respect to the use of triple antiplatelet therapy such as that documented in the Euro Heart Survey.

The perception that the mortality benefit afforded by adding a GPIIb/IIIa inhibitor to dual oral antiplatelet therapy does not outweigh the risk is a likely factor. This may be fuelled by results of trials such as BRAVE-3, which, inconsistent with those for On-TIME 2, failed to prove the value of adding a GPIIb/IIIa inhibitor to dual oral antiplatelet therapy in patients with STEMI. Subsequent analyses have indeed demonstrated the positive benefit-risk ratio associated with adding a GPIIb/IIIa inhibitor and determined that the timing of GPI administration could have an impact on clinical outcome related to its impact on infarct size in patients with STEMI. Additionally, it has been presumed that a synergistic effect exists between P2Y12 inhibitors and GPIs.

Triple antiplatelet therapy has a significant role to play in the management of patients with acute coronary syndromes managed with PCI. An understanding of patient risk status and timing of symptoms and bleeding risk is crucial to patient selection and ensuring that this therapy is optimized.

Valgimigli M, Minarelli M, Drugs, 2011; 71:1703-1719