Discover the best way to prevent a stroke with a promising new medication
First, a little background: atrial fibrillation, also known as "a-fib", is a heart rhythm disorder affecting 2.3 million people in the US that increases the risk of stroke by as much as five to seven times. For persons with atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, known as the right and left atrium, quiver instead of contracting, and the lack of coordinated movement of the atria can cause blood clots to form. The big risk for persons with atrial fibrillation is that blood clots will form in the heart and travel from the carotid arteries in the neck to an artery in the brain, which in turn can cause a stroke and even lead to death.
Until now, the only accepted treatment for atrial fibrilltion was anticoagulant therapy consisting of blood thinning medications, commonly known by the brand name of Coumadin. Anticoagulant therapy prevents blood clots from forming in the heart and as a result, it substantially reduces the risk of an ischemic stroke (blood clot in the brain). The problem with anticoagulant therapy is that it increases the risk of internal bleeding and blood levels must be checked every two months to confirm that the blood's clotting factors are appropriate for Coumadin.
The major study reported today promises to change the treatment protocol for persons with atrial fibrillation. The study of 14,000 patients found that once-a-day pill, rivaroxaban, prevents strokes as effectively as Coumadin, without the need for routine blood testing to avoid internal bleeding. Johnson & Johnson, which develope this new drug with Bayer, will apply for FDA approval by the end of this year.
This new medication promises to reduce the risk of a stroke for persons with atrial fibrillation, while eliminating the need for monthly blood tests, and at the same time, avoiding the risk of internal bleeding posed by Coumadin. If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, this new medication is worth keeping a close eye on.