Appreciation of the critical role of platelets in cardiovascular disease came when it was shown that aspirin, by virtue of its ability to block platelet aggregation, reduced the combined incidence of MI, stroke, and vascular death by 25%. Understanding the key role played by platelets in acute thrombotic vascular events prompted the development of a new class of drugs to control platelet action. Platelet aggregation is mediated exclusively by the platelet fibrinogen receptor GP IIb/IIIa. The binding of the receptor with fibrinogen is the final common pathway leading to platelet aggregation and thrombus formation. Abciximab, the first GP IIb/IIIa platelet receptor inhibitor, effectively reduces the thrombotic complications in acute coronary vascular events. The newer GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors, the synthetic peptide antagonists, have been shown to be more specific, to be nonimmunogenic, and to cause less bleeding. It is predictable that an oral GP IIb/IIIa inhibitor will become part of the standard repertoire in patients with unstable angina. The platelet has taken center stage in the battle against arterial thrombosis. The direction of our medical attack on acute coronary events is clear: harness the platelet.

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