Three of the most popular blood thinners are warfarin, aspirin and clopidogrel bisulfate, according to HeartMD Institute. Warfarin is the generic name for Coumadin, and clopidogrel bisulfate is sold as Plavix. Aspirin is the only one of the three that is sold over the counter.
Blood thinners belong to a class of drugs called anticoagulants for their ability to interrupt the body's natural clotting cycle. Patients who are at risk for thrombosis, heart disease and ischemic stroke are often prescribed blood thinners to reduce the risks associated with internal blood clotting. Anticoagulants are also commonly prescribed for patients with abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation, according to HeartMD Institute. These medications are not without hazards, however, and the two strongest, Coumadin and Plavix, are only available by prescription and under the supervision of a doctor.
Some patients are able to try out different blood thinners to find the right balance between therapeutic effects and undesirable side effects, while others have highly restricted choices for anticoagulant therapy. Patients with artificial heart valves, for example, must take Coumadin as aspirin isn't strong enough to prevent clotting at the site. Coronary artery disease patients with chronic vitamin deficiencies, however, might prefer aspirin, as it is the only one of its class that doesn't deplete the blood of vitamin D, according to HeartMD Institute.