A potentially dangerous drug combo

Two commonly prescribed drugs that don’t go well together are Plavix, the anti-blood clotting medication often taken by heart patients, and Nexium, a so-called proton pump inhibitor given for heart burn.

A study in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients who took both Plavix -- the brand name for clopidogrel, and proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium -- are at significantly higher risk of being hospitalized for heart attacks or of getting a new heart stent, compared with patients who take the blood-thinner alone.


Most patients who get heart stents – tiny wire mesh scaffolds used to prop open clogged heart arteries – take Plavix for at least a year after the procedure. Many also are given a proton pump inhibitors to ease gastrointestinal bleeding caused by Plavix.

The drugs were the second and third best selling drugs in the U.S. in 2009, according to data from IMS Health, which tracks prescription drug sales. Nexium had $6.3 billion in sales last year while Plavix had $5.6 billion, according to the healthcare information company with a regional headquarters in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

The study by researchers from Prescription Solutions in Irvine, Calif. and The University of Washington in Seattle found that patients who took both Plavix and a proton pump inhibitor had a 93 percent higher risk of rehospitalization due to a heart attack.