Venous thromboembolism hospitalizes more than 500,000 adults every year. There are two conditions related to venous thromboembolism. These conditions are deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolisms (PE). When a patient suffers from DVT, the result is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg. This causes swelling, redness, warmth, and pain. Should a clot break free, it can travel and lodge itself near the brain, heart, or another vital organ. This can cause severe damage. If a blood vessel in the lungs is blocked by a clot, it results in a PE, a life threatening condition. After heart attacks and stokes, PEs are the third leading cause of cardiovascular death.
Blood clots in veins can occur with no warning. However, there are certain factors that increase the risk of blood clots, such as obesity, high blood pressure, long distance travel, cigarette smoking, air pollution, recent surgery, injury, or pregnancy. Once a person has suffered from one venous clot, the likelihood that they will get another increases. Therefore, doctors will often lower the risk by prescribing medication.
The medication doctors relied on most to prevent blood clots was a drug called warfarin. It is sold under the brand name Coumadin. This drug, while it works well, can be difficult to take. Patients who take this drug require regular blood tests to ensure they are being prescribed the correct dose. The dosage also changes on a regular basis. These blood tests can be weekly at the start of treatment. Additionally, there are several foods and drugs that can interact with warfarin and this interferes with its effectiveness. This can be really challenging, especially for elderly patients.
A new drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which does not require regular blood tests or changes in the dosage. This makes it an easier drug to manage. However, this drug is much more expensive. A study that compared the two drugs found that the two drugs worked equally well in preventing blood clots, however the patients on the new drug has less serious bleeding than those who took warfarin.
This new approach to treating blood clots may simplify the treatment regimen by improving patient convenience and increasing the safety of treating venous thromboembolism. This makes this new drug an attractive new option.
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