Clopidogrel (brand name Plavix) is an antiplatelet medicine. This means it reduces the risk of blood clots forming.
Normally, when there is a cut or break in a small blood vessel, a blood clot forms to plug the hole until the blood vessel heals.
Small cells in the blood called platelets cause the blood to clot. When a platelet detects a damaged area of a blood vessel, it produces a chemical that attracts other platelets and makes them stick together to form a blood clot.
Clopidogrel reduces the ability of the platelets to stick together and reduces the risk of clots forming. This protects you from having a stroke or heart attack.
When is clopidogrel used?
You may be given clopidogrel if you have had:
Clopidogrel and low-dose aspirin
Sometimes, you may be given both low-dose aspirin and clopidogrel. Taken together, they are very effective, but there is a higher risk of bleeding, usually in the gut. This risk increases with age. The key question for your doctor is whether the benefits outweigh the extra risk.
This combination treatment is prescribed for a limited period of time, usually up to a maximum of 12 months. After this period, your specialist will usually advise you to stop 1 of the 2 antiplatelet medications.
Things to consider
If you have certain health conditions such as a peptic ulcer or bleeding disorder you should not take clopidogrel, unless advised by a specialist.
You should use clopidogrel with caution if you have liver or kidney problems.
Clopidogrel must not be given to anyone under 16 years old, unless under specialist advice. It's also not recommended if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
Read more about things to consider before taking clopidogrel.
Although serious reactions are rare, clopidogrel can cause side effects including indigestion and nausea.
Read more about the side effects of clopidogrel.
Clopidogrel can also interact with other medicines. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine to check it is safe to take with clopidogrel. If you are unsure, ask your pharmacist or GP.
Read more about how clopidogrel interacts with other medication.
Missed or extra doses
If you forget to take your dose of clopidogrel, take that dose as soon as you remember, then continue to take your course of clopidogrel as normal.
However, if it's almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
If you have to take 2 doses closer together than normal, there is an increased risk of side effects.
The patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine should also give you advice about what to do.
If you accidentally take an extra dose or doses of clopidogrel, contact your GP or call the NHS 24 111 service for advice.