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Sep 09, 2013

New Blood Thinner Safer than Standard Treatment

Study finds that new blood thinner, edoxaban, is just as effective and carries less bleeding risk than the standard treatment of warfarin.

Blood thinners are one of our best weapons when it comes to treating or preventing blood clots, but they aren’t without risks. Since they interfere with blood clotting—our body’s natural defense against bleeding—bleeding is the most common complication associated with this drug and although rare, can be life-threatening. Fortunately, a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam has identified a blood thinner that may be safer than the standard therapy, warfarin (Coumadin).

This study, which was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested the safety and efficacy of a new blood thinner, edoxaban, in treating deep-vein thrombosis (blood clot in deep veins, usually in the legs) and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). More than 8,200 patients participated in the trial and were prescribed either edoxaban or warfarin, for 3-12 months. Not only did researchers find that edoxaban was just as effective in treating these conditions as standard treatment, they also discovered that patients taking edoxaban had significantly lower risk of bleeding compared to those taking warfarin. And interestingly, edoxaban was actually more effective than warfarin in a certain subset of patients with a pulmonary embolism.

Findings are extremely encouraging as researchers are always searching for safer, more effective ways to prevent and treat blood clots. Venous thromboembolism (blood clots forming in the veins) affects at least 700,000 Americans each year and warfarin, although considered standard treatment, has its limitations. Patients taking warfarin require close monitoring and frequent dose adjustment to ensure that the drug is working correctly. And as with all blood thinners, warfarin carries some risk of bleeding. Compared to warfarin, the once-daily pill edoxaban is easier to take and if it carries less risk of complication, could shake things up. Although warfarin has been around for decades, there’s always room for improvement and experts hope that more research is done to compare new types of blood thinners and see which comes out on top.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is venous thromboembolism and why is it dangerous?

  • Venous thromboembolism occurs when a clot forms in a vein, which can slow or completely block blood flow. The danger is that if these clots form in deep veins (most often in the leg or pelvis), they can break off and travel to the lungs or heart causing a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism can prevent your body from getting the oxygen that it needs, inflicting serious damage on internal organs.
  • What is a blood thinner?
  • A blood thinner slows down the blood's ability to form clots. This helps prevent clots that can cause life-threatening problems such as stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism. These medicines also can keep blood clots from getting bigger. Blood thinner medicines work in different ways to prevent blood clots, but all of them raise the risk of serious bleeding.

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