The role of glycoprotein (Gp) IIb/IIIa receptor antagonists remains controversial and these agents are infrequently utilized during non-ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndromes (NSTE-ACS) despite American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines. Despite recommendations, the NRMI-4 (National Registry of Myocardial Infarction 4) and CRUSADE (Can rapid risk stratification of unstable angina patients suppress adverse outcomes with early implementation of the ACC/AHA guidelines?) registries observed that only 25%–32% of eligible patients received early Gp IIb/IIIa therapy, despite a 6.3% absolute mortality reduction in NRMI-4 and a 2% absolute mortality reduction in CRUSADE. A pooled analysis of Gp IIb/IIIa data from these registries suggest a major reduction in mortality (Odds Ratio = 0.43, 95% Confidence Index 0.25–0.74, p = 0.002) with early Gp IIb/IIIa therapy, yet clinicians fail to utilize this option in NSTE-ACS. The evidence-based approach to NSTE-ACS involves aspirin, clopidogrel, low-molecular weight heparins, or unfractionated heparin in concert with Gp IIb/IIIa receptor antagonists, however, newer percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)-based trials challenge current recommendations. Novel strategies emerging in NSTE-ACS include omitting Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors altogether or using Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors with higher doses of clopidogrel in selected patients. The ISAR-REACT (Intracoronary stenting and antithrombotic regimen–Rapid early action for coronary treatment) and ISAR-SWEET (ISAR–Is abciximab a superior way to eliminate elevated thrombotic risk in diabetics) trials question the value of abciximab when 600 mg of clopidogrel concurrently administered during PCI. The CLEAR-PLATELETS (Clopidogrel loading with eptifibatide to arrest the reactivity of platelets) and PEACE (Platelet activity extinction in non-Q-wave MI with ASA, clopidogrel, and eptifibatide) trials suggest more durable platelet inhibition when Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors are used with higher doses clopidogrel. The ISAR-COOL (ISAR: Cooling off strategy) trial found no difference in ischemic outcomes when Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors were excluded and ARMYDA-2 (Antiplatelet therapy for reduction of myocardial damage during angioplasty) suggested higher doses of clopidogrel are more appropriate during PCI when Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors are not utilized. This constellation of new trials forces reconsideration of current recommendations in regards to patient risk stratification, choice of antithrombotic therapy, doses, and timing. These new data will impact emerging guidelines and updates are currently in progress.
Keywords: acute coronary syndromes, glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors, tirofiban, abciximab, eptifibatide, clopidogrel