Platelet adhesion, activation and aggregation play a pivotal role in atherothrombosis. Intracoronary atherothrombosis is the most common cause of the development of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), and plays a central role in complications occurring around percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) including recurrent ACS, procedure-related myocardial infarction or stent thrombosis. Inhibition of platelet aggregation by medical treatment impairs formation and progression of thrombotic processes and is therefore of great importance in the prevention of complications after an ACS or around PCI. An essential part in the platelet activation process is the interaction of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) with the platelet P2Y12 receptor. The P2Y12 receptor is the predominant receptor involved in the ADP-stimulated activation of the glycoprotein IIb/IIIa receptor. Activation of the glycoprotein IIb/IIIa receptor results in enhanced platelet degranulation and thromboxane production, and prolonged platelet aggregation. The objectives of this review are to discuss the pharmacological limitations of the P2Y12 inhibitor clopidogrel, and describe the novel alternative P2Y12 inhibitors prasugrel and ticagrelor and the clinical implications of the introduction of these new medicines.
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