Antiplatelet and Anticoagulant Therapy for Atherothrombotic Disease: The Role of Current and Emerging Agents

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Coronary atherothrombotic disease, including chronic stable angina and acute coronary syndromes (ACS), is associated with significant global burden. The acute clinical manifestations of atherothrombotic disease are mediated by occlusive arterial thrombi that impair tissue perfusion and are composed of a core of aggregated platelets, generated by platelet activation, and a superimposed fibrin mesh produced by the coagulation cascade. Long-term antithrombotic therapies, namely oral antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants, have demonstrated variable clinical effects. Aspirin and P2Y12 adenosine diphosphate (ADP) receptor antagonists have been shown to reduce the risk for thrombosis and ischaemic events by blocking the thromboxane (Tx) A2 and platelet P2Y12 activation pathways, respectively, whereas the benefits of oral anticoagulants have not been consistently documented. However, even in the presence of aspirin and a P2Y12 receptor antagonist, the risk for ischaemic events remains substantial because platelet activation continues via pathways independent of TxA2 and ADP, most notably the protease-activated receptor (PAR)-1 platelet activation pathway stimulated by thrombin. Emerging antithrombotic therapies include those targeting the platelet, such as the new P2Y12 antagonists and a novel class of oral PAR-1 antagonists, and those inhibiting the coagulation cascade, such as the new direct factor Xa antagonists, the direct thrombin inhibitors, and a novel class of factor IX inhibitors. The role of emerging antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants in the long-term management of patients with atherothrombotic disease will be determined by the balance of efficacy and safety in large ongoing clinical trials.

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