Chewed Prasugrel for Primary PCI? Forget It!


Tirofiban is far superior to cangrelor at achieving rapid and potent inhibition of platelet aggregation in patients undergoing primary percutaneous coronary intervention for ST-elevation MI.

And cangrelor, in turn, is superior to oral prasugrel, according to the randomized FABOLUS FASTER trial, Marco Valgimigli, MD, PhD, reported at the virtual annual meeting of the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions.

Moreover, contrary to conventional wisdom, chewed prasugrel (Effient) proved no better than swallowing the tablets whole for platelet inhibition, said Dr. Valgimigli, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Bern (Switzerland).

He explained that standard administration of the newer oral P2Y12 inhibitors prasugrel and ticagrelor (Brilinta) in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for ST-elevation MI (STEMI) does not provide optimal early inhibition of platelet aggregation. The parenteral antiplatelet drugs tirofiban and cangrelor have been shown to provide faster and more prolonged inhibition of platelet aggregation than the oral P2Y12 inhibitors.

But there has been no head-to-head comparative data for the glycoprotein IIb/IIIA inhibitor tirofiban (Aggrastat) and the P2Y12 inhibitor cangrelor (Kengreal) in the setting of primary PCI for STEMI. This was the impetus for FABOLUS FASTER, the first study to compare the pharmacodynamic effects of the two parenteral antiplatelet agents. The trial also looked at how these potent parenteral drugs, compared with chewed prasugrel, another previously unexamined yet highly practical issue.

The three-center, multinational, open-label FABOLUS FASTER trial randomized 122 patients undergoing primary PCI for STEMI to one of three arms: a standard intravenous bolus and 2-hour infusion of either the P2Y12 inhibitor cangrelor (Kengreal) or the glycoprotein IIb/IIIA inhibitor tirofiban (Aggrastat), followed in either case by 60 mg of oral prasugrel, or a third arm in which patients didn’t receive either drug but were instead randomized to a 60-mg loading dose of chewed or whole prasugrel tablets.

The primary study endpoint was inhibition of platelet aggregation at 30 minutes as measured by light transmittance aggregometry in response to 20 mcmol/L of adenosine diphosphate (ADP).

Tirofiban was the unequivocal winner with 95% inhibition, as compared with 34.1% with cangrelor, 10.5% with chewed prasugrel, and 6.3% with prasugrel swallowed whole, even though the concentration of prasugrel’s active metabolite was far greater at 62.3 ng/mL after prasugrel was chewed, compared with 17.1 ng/mL when swallowed in integral tablet form.

The rate of nonresponsiveness to tirofiban as defined by greater than 59% platelet aggregation was zero for tirofiban during its 2-hour infusion, then a scant 8% thereafter during repeated testing at 3 and 4-6 hours. In contrast, the cangrelor nonresponsiveness rate was 50%-58% during the 2-hour infusion, rising to 82% at 3 hours.

FABOLUS FASTER, while not powered for clinical endpoints, might nevertheless have important clinical implications, according to Dr. Valgimigli. First, the superiority of the intravenous drugs tirofiban and cangrelor over prasugrel for early, strong platelet inhibition underscores the importance of giving parenteral antiplatelet drugs over oral therapy during the acute phase of STEMI therapy.

Moreover, tirofiban’s outstanding performance — and the high residual platelet reactivity associated with cangrelor — makes a strong case for large comparative, randomized trials of the two drugs, with hard clinical endpoints.

Discussant Christoph K. Naber, MD, PhD, opined that he personally doesn’t consider the FABOLUS FASTER results practice changing, for a couple of reasons.

“Platelet inhibition measured by ADP in vitro is not necessarily related to true effects in vivo. We know that platelets are activated by multiple mechanisms, and the ADP pathway is just one of them,” said Dr. Naber, an interventional cardiologist at the Wilhemshaven (Germany) Clinic.

Also, there’s a good reason why no glycoprotein IIb/IIIA inhibitors are approved for treatment of STEMI, and why tirofiban, despite its impressive antiplatelet effects, is currently largely reserved for bailout situations, such as complex lesions with large thrombus burden. It’s because tirofiban’s potent antiplatelet activity is accompanied by a high risk of bleeding, he added.

However, Dr. Valgimigli noted that this conviction about excessive bleeding risk is mainly based on older studies in which glycoprotein IIb/IIIA inhibitors were administered for prolonged duration through femoral access sites. He argued that it’s time for large clinical trials examining the risk/benefit ratio of short infusion of these agents in the contemporary practice of primary PCI for STEMI.

Simultaneously with Dr. Valgimigli’s presentation, the FABOLUS FASTER results were published online (Circulation. 2020 Jun 27; doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.046928).

Dr. Valgimigli reported that Medicure, the sponsor of the FABOLUS FASTER trial, provided an institutional research grant to conduct the study. He also disclosed receiving research grants and personal fees outside the scope of this study from a dozen pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Dr. Naber reported having no financial conflicts.

This article originally appeared on

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