Antiplatelet Medicines for Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

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Antiplatelet Medicines for Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)


Generic NameBrand Name
acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) Aspirin, Bufferin
ASA with extended-release dipyridamoleAggrenox

How It Works

Antiplatelet medicines reduce blood clot formation by preventing the smallest blood cells (platelets) from sticking together and forming blood clots.

Why It Is Used

ASA is the most commonly used medicine to prevent stroke. But all of these medicines can be used to reduce the risk of stroke in people who have already had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or ischemic stroke.

How Well It Works

ASA reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack or another transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Studies have shown that the combination of ASA and extended-release dipyridamole reduces the risk of stroke and is a safe and effective alternative to ASA alone.1

Clopidogrel is a safe and effective alternative to ASA.1

It is important for each person to work with his or her doctor to find the best medicine.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Coughing up blood, vomiting blood, or passing black, tarry, or bloody stools. (These are signs of bleeding inside your body.)

Call your doctor right away if you have any unusual bleeding, such as:

  • Blood spots under your skin.
  • A nosebleed that you cannot stop.
  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.

Common side effects of these medicines include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting.
  • Nausea.
  • Severe headache.
  • Stomach pain or discomfort.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

ASA is the least expensive option to prevent blood clots in people who have had a stroke or TIA.

For more information about taking daily ASA, see the topic Low-Dose ASA Therapy.

If you do not take ASA, talk to your doctor before you start taking ASA every day.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments. And call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Sacco RL, et al. (2008). Aspirin and extended-release dipyridamole versus clopidogrel for recurrent stroke. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(12): 1238–1251.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Richard D. Zorowitz, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Last Revised April 8, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.