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November 6, 2002


Emory Cardiologists Using New Test To Determine If Aspirin Is Working To Prevent Heart Attack And Stroke

ATLANTA -- More than 20 million Americans take aspirin each day to prevent blood clots and reduce their risk of initial and recurrent heart attacks, strokes and other vascular events However, published data in the medical literature indicate that aspirin therapy may not work in about three out of ten people.

Now physicians at the Emory Heart Center have a new tool to identify patients who are not getting the benefit of aspirin therapy --- the Ultegraâ [cq] Rapid Platelet Function Assay - ASA (known as RPFA-ASA).

"This test identifies people who have an insufficient response to aspirin. Since we know aspirin therapy can be lifesaving in heart attack, and that it may help prevent some forms of coronary disease, it is important to identify individuals who need the effect but are not getting it. Those people may need alternative forms of therapy," says Emory Heart Center cardiologist Peter Block, M.D.

Aspirin has long been prescribed to help prevent stroke and heart attacks because it interrupts the chain of events that cause blood cells called platelets to stick together and form clots. "However, we've learned that aspirin does not have the desired effect in some people," Dr. Block explains. "There appears to be an inability of aspirin to affect the platelet receptors in some people. This may be a genetic variant."

Developed by Accumetrics and recently approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), RPFA-ASA uses a computer-based analyzer to test a small blood sample. The results, which only take about ten minutes, reveal whether aspirin's anti platelet action is working in patients taking the medication..

"When people are shown to not be getting the full effects of aspirin, we can try a higher dose of aspirin or other alternate anti-coagulants," says Dr. Block. "There are still many questions that need to be answered through research about these issues. In the meantime, the RPFA-ASA is an important step forward in individualizing optimal therapy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in our patients."

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