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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Triple antiplatelet therapy for preventing vascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Chamila Geeganage1, Robert Wilcox2 and Philip MW Bath1*

Author Affiliations

1 Stroke Trials Unit, Institute of Neuroscience, Division of Stroke, University of Nottingham, City Hospital campus, Nottingham NG5 1PB, UK

2 Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, D Floor, South Block, University Hospital, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK

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BMC Medicine 2010, 8:36  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-36

Published: 16 June 2010



Dual antiplatelet therapy is usually superior to mono therapy in preventing recurrent vascular events (VEs). This systematic review assesses the safety and efficacy of triple antiplatelet therapy in comparison with dual therapy in reducing recurrent vascular events.


Completed randomized controlled trials investigating the effect of triple versus dual antiplatelet therapy in patients with ischaemic heart disease (IHD), cerebrovascular disease or peripheral vascular disease were identified using electronic bibliographic searches. Data were extracted on composite VEs, myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, death and bleeding and analysed with Cochrane Review Manager software. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using random effects models.


Twenty-five completed randomized trials (17,383 patients with IHD) were included which involving the use of intravenous (iv) GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors (abciximab, eptifibatide, tirofiban), aspirin, clopidogrel and/or cilostazol. In comparison with aspirin-based therapy, triple therapy using an intravenous GP IIb/IIIa inhibitor significantly reduced composite VEs and MI in patients with non-ST elevation acute coronary syndromes (NSTE-ACS) (VE: OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.55-0.86; MI: OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.56-0.88) and ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) (VE: OR 0.39, 95% CI 0.30-0.51; MI: OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.17-0.38). A significant reduction in death was also noted in STEMI patients treated with GP IIb/IIIa based triple therapy (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.49-0.99). Increased minor bleeding was noted in STEMI and elective percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) patients treated with GP IIb/IIIa based triple therapy. Stroke events were too infrequent for us to be able to identify meaningful trends and no data were available for patients recruited into trials on the basis of stroke or peripheral vascular disease.


Triple antiplatelet therapy based on iv GPIIb/IIIa inhibitors was more effective than aspirin-based dual therapy in reducing VEs in patients with acute coronary syndromes (STEMI and NSTEMI). Minor bleeding was increased among STEMI and elective PCI patients treated with a GP IIb/IIIa based triple therapy. In patients undergoing elective PCI, triple therapy had no beneficial effect and was associated with an 80% increase in transfusions and an eightfold increase in thrombocytopenia. Insufficient data exist for patients with prior ischaemic stroke and peripheral vascular disease and further research is needed in these groups of patients.