Heart Attack Medications

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 30, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on October 30, 2014

Heart Attack Drugs

Medications can be an effective tool in treating a heart attack (myocardial infarction) and preventing future attacks. The most commonly used medications for treatment of heart attack include the drugs described in the following sections.

A heart attack is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Thrombolytic Medicines

Also called “clot busters,” thrombolytic medicines are used immediately following a heart attack in places where cardiac catheterization is not readily available. The medicine is administered through an IV and works by quickly dissolving any major clots in the arteries and restoring blood flow to the heart. Additional treatments or surgery may be required if blood flow does not return to normal. Some examples of thrombolytic medicines include:

  • alteplase (Activase)
  • anistreplase (Eminase)
  • strptokinase (Streptase)
  • tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)
  • urokinase (Abbokinase)

Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants reduce the risk of clotting in heart attack patients. They are more commonly referred to as blood thinners. Examples of anticoagulants include:

  • heparin
  • lepirudin (Refludan)
  • warfarin (Coumadin)

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers are a class of medications used to treat high blood pressure, as well as other diseases and conditions. The medicines essentially make it easier for your heart to do its job by blocking the effects of adrenaline and slowing the speed and force of your heartbeat. Beta blockers are used to relieve chest pain and improve blood flow after heart attack.  Many studies over the last 40 years have found that beta blockers are often considered standard treatment after a heart attack unless there was a compelling reason not to use them. While these remain an important drug in treating heart attacks, certain studies have questioned the routine.  Some examples of beta blockers used to relieve chest pain in someone who’s had a heart attack include:

  • atenolol (Apo-atenolol)
  • carvedilol (Coreg)
  • ametoprolol (Toprol)

ACE Inhibitors (ACEI)

Like beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) treat high blood pressure and other conditions. ACE inhibitors help relax and widen the blood vessels by blocking the production of an enzyme that causes the vessels to narrow. ACE inhibitors can improve blood flow, reduce strain on your heart, and help avoid further damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack. They can potentially even help the heart “remodel” itself to work better in spite of the damaged muscle segments.  Some examples of ACE inhibitors include:

  • benazepril (Lotensin)
  • captopril (Capoten)
  • enalapril (Vasotec)
  • fosinopril (Monopril)
  • lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
  • moexipril (Univasc)
  • perindopril (Aceon)
  • quinapril (Accupril)
  • ramipril (Altace)
  • trandolapril (Mavik)

Antiplatelet Agents

Aspirin is the most well-known type of antiplatelet medicine. These types of drugs prevent clotting in the arteries by keeping blood platelets from sticking together. Antiplatelet agents are typically used by people who have had a heart attack and are at risk for additional clotting, particularly people who have just undergone thrombolysis or revascularization through catheterization. Antiplatelets can also be used to treat people with several risk factors for heart attack.  Besides aspirin, antiplatelet agents include:

  • clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • ticlopidine (Ticlid)
  • eptafibitide (Integrilin)

Out of these medications, only aspirin is commonly used as primary prevention to reduce the risk of heart attack before one has actually occurred.

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