Clopidogrel is an antiplatelet medicine, which means it makes it less likely your blood will clot. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Clopidogrel is also called Plavix.
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What is clopidogrel?
Clopidogrel is an anti-platelet medication. It is usually used to prevent blood clots in people who have:
- chest pain (from angina)
- had a stroke
- had a heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- had a coronary stent fitted.
Clopidogrel blocks certain blood cells called platelets and slows down your body’s ability to clot blood. It is used to prevent blood clots forming in blood vessels that lead to your brain and heart muscle. Preventing blood clots in these vessels helps lower your risk of stroke and heart attack. Your doctor may prescribe clopidogrel with or instead of low dose aspirin. In New Zealand clopidogrel is available as 75 milligram tablets.
- The usual dose of clopidogrel is 1 tablet once a day.
- You may be given a starting dose of 4 tablets (300 milligrams) the first time you take it.
- Always take your clopidogrel exactly as your doctor has told you.
- The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much clopidogrel to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.
How to take clopidogrel
- Timing: Take clopidogrel once a day, at the same time each day. You can take clopidogrel with or without food. Swallow your tablet with a glass of water.
- Missed dose: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. If it is less than 12 hours until your next dose, wait until the next day and take your normal dose. Do not take double the dose.
It is important to let health professionals know that you are taking clopidogrel, such as your dentist, pharmacist or nurse. You may need to stop using this medicine for several days before having surgery.
What to consider before starting clopidogrel
- Do you have stomach problems such as an ulcer?
- Have you had surgery within the past 30 days?
- Have you ever had a stroke caused by bleeding in your brain (called intracranial haemorrhage)?
- Do have any problems with your liver?
- Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Are you taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start clopidogrel. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
What are the side effects of clopidogrel?
Like all medicines, clopidogrel can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Common side effects include indigestion, tummy pain, nausea (feeling sick) and diarrhoea (runny poos). These usually go away with time. Tell your doctor if troublesome.
Increased risk of bleeding
Clopidogrel increases your risk of bleeding. You might bleed or bruise more easily while you are taking clopidogrel. Minor bleeding such as a nosebleed should usually stop on its own. If you have a fall or hurt your head or body, get medical attention immediately, even if you feel okay.
Signs of severe bleeding
If you have any of the following signs of bleeding, contact your doctor immediately or ring Healthline for free 24-hour health advice 0800 611 116:
- becoming pale, very weak and tired, or short of breath
- any bleeding from your gums or cuts or nosebleeds that won’t stop
- blood in your stools (poo) – black, tarry stools
- blood in your urine (wee) – pink, red or brown-coloured urine
- coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- sudden numbness or weakness of your arm, leg or face, especially if only on one side of your body
- sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others
- sudden difficulty in walking or loss of balance or co-ordination
- suddenly feeling dizzy or sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product
Clopidogrel should not be taken with some other medications and herbal supplements, so always check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting clopidogrel or before starting any new medicines. Also check with your pharmacist before taking:
- over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as diclofenac (eg, Voltaren Rapid), ibuprofen (eg, Nurofen), naproxen (eg, Naprogesic)
- herbal extracts such as garlic, ginkgo or ginseng.
Taking these together with clopidogrel may increase your risk of bleeding and should be avoided.
The following links has more information on clopidogrel:
Additional resources for healthcare professionals
Clopidogrel NZ Formulary
Arrow-clopid Medsafe, NZ
Update – PPIs and clopidogrel interaction Medsafe, NZ, 2014
An update on antithrombotic medicines – what does primary care need to know? BPAC, NZ, 2015