Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. We can effectively manage diseases that regularly killed generations that lived before us. Though there are Plavix side effects as well as side effects, just as there are to nearly every medical intervention, overall we are very lucky to be living in the modern era of medicine.
The Benefits of Modern Medicine
We enjoy longer and healthier lives than humans have at any point in history. That is largely because of enormous advances in trauma treatment, better methods of understanding illness and disorder, and the development of amazing drugs that work faster and more potently than the herbal medicines our ancestors had to rely on.
While our medications are, in many cases, far better than the ones our ancestors used, they are far from perfect. If you've been prescribed Plavix, it can be helpful to know something of why you've been prescribed this drug, what conditions it is meant to treat, and possible Plavix side effects. This knowledge will equip you to take ownership of your health and make the best use of your medications.
What Is Plavix?
Plavix is the brand name for the drug known as clopidogrel bisulfate. The drug itself comes in a white or off-white colored powder. In normal water, it does not dissolve, but it does freely dissolve in methanol. When taken orally, Plavix brand pills come in two shapes and sizes, which helps doctors and patients differentiate the dosage levels.
Both types of Plavix pills are colored pink. One is round, film-coated, and biconvex. This contains nearly 98mg of clopidogrel bisulfate and is equivalent to a molar dose of 75mg. This pill is stamped with the numbers "75" on one side and the numbers "1171" on the other.
The other pill is pink, oblong, and film-coated. It contains 391.5mg of clopidogrel bisulfate. This pill is equivalent to a molar dose of 300mg and is stamped with the "300" on one side and "1332" on the other side.
As with most pills and medications, Plavix mixes the active ingredient with a number of inactive ones. In this case, the clopidogrel bisulfate is mixed with castor oil, mannitol, microcrystalline cellulose, hydroxypropyl cellulose, and polyethylene glycol.
The coating of the pills contains ferric oxide (iron), hypromellose 2910, lactose monohydrate, triacetin, and titanium dioxide. Each tablet is polished with Carnauba wax. Both pills should be stored at slightly warmer than room temperatures of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, though they can be exposed for periods to temperatures as low as 59 degrees or as high as 86 degrees.
What Condition Does It Treat?
Plavix is normally prescribed to reduce the rates of heart attack and strokes both in those who have already suffered a myocardial infarction (commonly called a heart attack) and in those at risk for one. It can be used for people with unstable angina, for those with acute ST-elevation (or STEMI), and for those not at immediate risk but with a history of stroke or heart attack. The drug is frequently taken with aspirin.
Plavix can also help with peripheral vascular disease, which is a condition where the blood vessels narrow so that not enough blood gets to and from the heart. This disease often progresses from aching muscles, cold hands and feet, and finally numbness. In some cases, a patient may even develop gangrene due to compromised blood flow to the extremities.
Why Does It Help?
Plavix is used to help prevent blood clots. This is especially important for those at risk for heart attacks or stroke and for those with poor circulation in the legs. It typically works best when combined with other drugs.
How Does It Work?
Clopidogrel is kind of platelet inhibitor. The body forms blood clots by making platelets stick together. Under normal conditions, this is an important and useful function. For those at risk of heart attack or stroke, however, it can be dangerous if the blood clots too much. Plavix stops the platelets from sticking together so that dangerous blood clots do not form.
How Is It Prescribed?
For those at immediate risk of heart attack or stroke, the drug is usually given in the larger dosage first and then subsequently in smaller doses once a day. For those with chronic problems and no immediate danger, most prescriptions are for the smaller amount, once per day.
What Drugs Can You Not Take with Plavix?
There are several drugs and types of drugs that should not be taken when also taking Plavix. These are:
- Serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
It is important to talk with your doctor about all medications, vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements you are taking before taking Plavix or any other drug. This helps to ensure you do not suffer unnecessary Plavix side effects or other issues that can come from mixing drugs and supplements.
What Happens If I Take Too Much?
Overdosing on the medication can cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, and hemorrhaging of the gastrointestinal system. However, acute overdose has never been observed in human beings due to the effectiveness of ordinary medical precautions. Minor overdose can result in bleeding complications that can usually be managed by a hospital.
Who Can't Take Plavix?
Anyone already suffering from an active bleeding issue, such as an intracranial hemorrhage or a peptic ulcer, cannot take Plavix lest the bleeding become far worse. Plavix is also inappropriate for people with genetic clotting disorders.
Also, certain patients are hypersensitive to clopidogrel or other components of the drug and should not take Plavix. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to the following drugs, you should tell your doctor before taking Plavix:
Plavix can be used by anyone without a blood clotting disorder or allergy. It works in the elderly as well as in the young and in those with hepatic impairment as well as those without. Plavix has been shown to be slightly less effective in women than in men and in patients with moderate to severe renal impairment. Ask your doctor to learn more.
Good & Bad Side Effects
Nearly every medical intervention has both good effects and some unwanted side effects. This is largely inevitable, and in most cases, the question is whether the benefits outweigh any possible negative effects.
Plavix Side Effects: Positive
The good effects of Plavix are precisely the reason the drug is prescribed in the first place. It prevents the platelets in the blood from clumping together and forming clots. This keeps blood flowing more easily through the body. This is especially crucial for people with inhibited blood flow in their arteries and greatly reduces their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Plavix also improves blood circulation within the arteries, especially for those with arterial disease, heart disease, or poor circulation. Plavix keeps blood flowing smoothly, bringing oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the brain and heart. These functions make Plavix one of the most powerful weapons in a doctor's arsenal against heart disease and stroke.
Plavix also helps those with a peripheral vascular disease. The drug can limit the side effects of the disease, protect the heart, and even protect from serious complications like gangrene.
Plavix Side Effects: Negative
Plavix has a number of negative side effects. It's important to know what they are so you can report them to your doctor if you recognize a symptom.
Minor Side Effects
These are side effects that are not considered serious and which are experienced by many people:
- Low-grade fever
- Minor bruising
If any of these minor side effects worsen or do not go away after a few days, talk to your doctor.
Serious Side Effects
If you experience any of these side effects, you should contact your doctor immediately and stop taking Plavix:
- Serious bleeding, especially if it does not stop quickly
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the stools (red or stools that are black and tarry)
- Large bruises, especially if unexplainable
- Coughing up blood
- Vomiting, especially if blood is involved
The most serious of the Plavix side effects is a blood clotting issue that can manifest in several ways. If you see any of the symptoms of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura or blood-clotting problems, you should get to an emergency room right away. These symptoms include
- Purple spots on the skin or in the mouth
- Yellow skin or yellow whites of the eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Fast heart rate
- Trouble speaking or understanding
- Excessive tiredness or weakness
- Inability to urinate
- Stomach pain
- Loss of vision
- Bleeding in the mouth, vagina, or rectum
Plavix Side Effects: Allergic
It is always possible to have an allergic reaction to a medication, even if you have never been allergic to it before. Allergic reactions differ from normal side effects and usually come on very quickly. These typically include swelling in the lips, tongue, or throat. Other allergic side effects include hives and difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms to Plavix or any other drug or food, immediately get emergency medical help.
Plavix is an important way for doctors to fight heart attacks, strokes, and arterial disease. It improves blood flow, helps patients avoid dangerous blood clots, and preserves and extends life. Like all medications, there are Plavix side effects to watch out for. If you're taking Plavix, talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have and any symptoms you're experiencing.