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Stroke treatment: Medicines

Not all stroke medicines are right for all people.

Your doctor will decide which medicines are right for you. He or she will based this decision on your risk factors, medical history and medicine allergies.

The following are some medicines you may take.

Medicines to help prevent blood clots

Anti-platelets

Platelets circulate (move) in your blood and help form blood clots.

Anti-platelet medicines like aspirin, clopidogrel, extended release dipyridamole and aspirin in combination, and ticlopidine help prevent stroke because they keep the blood from clotting.

  • Aspirin
  • Aspirin is often the first choice to prevent another stroke. Over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol®, Advil® or Aleve® do not keep the blood from clotting. Only aspirin can keep your blood from clotting.

    If aspirin upsets your stomach you may take a coated aspirin. One aspirin a day is often a good dose.

  • Extended release dipyridamole and aspirin combination (Aggrenox®), clopidogrel (Plavix®), ticlopidine (Ticlid®) and others
  • Like aspirin, these medicines keep your blood from clotting. They are available only prescription.

    Your doctor will decide if any of these medicines will work better for you than aspirin.

    Anti-coagulants

    Did you know?

    Newer medicines (including IIa/IIIb inhibitors) also affect how platelets work and are being studied.

    Allina Community Pharmacies stocks many special-needs medications. Pharmacists can answer your prescription questions face-to-face or over the phone.

    Other parts of your blood (besides platelets) can cause blood clots. Anti-coagulant medicines keep you from getting blood clots and help break up clots that form. Some people who have heart problems or artificial heart valves take these medicines to help prevent stroke. They are available only by prescription.

    • warfarin (Coumadin®)
    • Warfarin is a common medicine to prevent stroke. You will need to have a blood test called the international normalized ration (INR) to decide the best dose for you. You will need to take this test once in a while.

    • dabigatran (Pradaxa®)
    • Dabigatran is another medicine to prevent stroke. Unlike warfarin, blood tests are not needed with this medicine. Your doctor will decide if dabigatran would be better for you than warfarin.

    Medicine to dissolve blood clots

    Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a medicine that quickly dissolves blood clots. It is only used in the hospital. This medicine must be given quickly after the start of stroke symptoms.

    It may cause bleeding (including bleeding into the brain). You will not be given tPA if your blood pressure is too high, if changes on a CT scan show it should not be given, or if the risk of bleeding is too great.

    Medicines to lower cholesterol

    These medicines (known as anti-hyperlipidemics) are taken to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. This has many benefits. One group of these medicines, known as "statins," has been shown to help reduce the risk for stroke in people who have high cholesterol.

    If you are taking a different anti-hyperlipidemic medicine and have a stroke, a statin medicine might be added to your current medicines to help prevent another stroke.


 

Source: Allina Patient Education, Understanding Stroke: Information about Stroke and Recovery, fourth edition, ISBN 1-931876-13-4

First published: 02/01/2006
Last updated: 12/09/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts