Antiplatelet therapy is universally recommended for the prevention of recurrent events in patients with noncardioembolic ischaemic stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), acute and chronic coronary artery disease, or peripheral arterial disease. However, choosing which antiplatelet agents to use in these situations remains controversial. The use of aspirin, aspirin plus extended-release dipyridamole, or clopidogrel is recommended as initial therapy in patients with noncardioembolic ischaemic stroke or TIA to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke and other cardiovascular events. Based on the results of the MATCH trial, combination therapy with aspirin plus clopidogrel is not recommended for patients with ischaemic stroke or TIA due to the increased risk of haemorrhage.
The results of the CHARISMA trial support this recommendation; despite previous data demonstrating a favourable benefit-risk profile of aspirin plus clopidogrel in patients with acute coronary syndrome, this combination should not be used in patients at high risk for atherothrombosis and those with previous stroke or TIA. In these patients, the CHARISMA trial demonstrated a lack of significant clinical efficacy and an increased risk of bleeding with clopidogrel plus aspirin compared with aspirin alone.
Further research is needed to assess the benefit-risk ratio of clopidogrel plus aspirin in specific subpopulations of patients at high risk for atherothrombotic events, and to determine the role of clopidogrel plus aspirin in preventing cardioembolic stroke or early recurrent stroke after symptomatic large-vessel atherostenosis. Recent and ongoing studies are seeking to better define the roles of different antiplatelet regimens in preventing recurrent stroke.