Dr. Byron Cryer said, current cardiology guidelines suggest patients who cannot take aspirin because of previous bleeding ulcers be given the drug clopidogrel (Plavix), which has been found to be marginally better than low-dose aspirin in preventing heart attacks and reducing bleeding ulcers. But, Plavix's effectiveness has not been proven in heart patients at greatest risk due to their history of gastrointestinal bleeding, and recent research indicates it actually may impair ulcer healing and increase rates of bleeding.

"Clopidogrel inhibits new growth of small blood vessels in ulcers, which is important for ulcer healing,” said Cryer. "Although Plavix may not primarily cause gastrointestinal ulcers, through inhibition of new blood vessel growth, it may impair healing of background ulcers. When combined with the propensity to increase bleeding, these agents may convert small, silent ulcers into large ulcers that bleed profoundly.”

Cryer recommends that patients at high-risk for gastrointestinal complications who require blood clot-preventing therapy should consume the lowest effective dose of aspirin (325 milligrams or less daily) combined with drugs used to treat stomach ulcers (such as Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec or Protonix) rather than take clopidogrel.

A study by researchers from Hong Kong evaluates the use of antiplatelet therapies in patients with a history of aspirin-induced upper gastrointestinal bleeding and found those who took clopidogrel had a 900 percent increase in recurrent bleeding from ulcers when compared to patients who took aspirin with esomeprazole (Nexium).

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas