If you have atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) or know someone who does, a new anti-clotting drug has been shown to prevent more strokes with less bleeding risk than the existing treatment, according to the drug makers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer. Considering that 2.2 million Americans have atrial-fibrillation, this could be good news.
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that causes blood to pool in the heart's atrium, instead of passing fluidly from one chamber of the heart to the other. When blood stagnates in the atrium, the blood is more prone to clot, which in turn can lead to a devastating embolic stroke. Anticlotting medicine is designed to minimize the risk of blood clotting in the heart. Studies have shown that the anticlotting medicine reduces the risk of a stroke by seven-fold for persons with atrial fibrillation.
Warfarin has been the drug for anticlotting purposes for decades (over 50 years). But warfarin requires frequent monitoring to assure patients are not taking too much, which increases the risk of bleeding, or too little, increasing the risk of a stroke. The new drug, Eliquis, may work better than warfarin in reducing the risk of a stroke and minimizing the risk of internal bleeding.
The drug makers' study of Eliquis against warfarin included 18,201 patients with atrial fibrillation and at least one other risk factor for stroke. The clinical studies show that the new drug, Eliquis, has a better effect in lowering the risk of stroke with less risk of internal bleeding. If true, this could be a breakthrough drug for millions of persons diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
The drug, known as apixaban, or the brand name of Eliquis, has not been submitted for approval to the Food and Drug Administration and the full study results will not be released by the drug companies until August 28th. Eliquis was approved in Europe last month to prevent blood clots in patients receiving hip or knee replacement surgery.
If you or a loved one has atrial fibrillation, speak with your doctor about making the switch from warfarin to Eliquis.
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